What is your job and what are your main responsibilities?
I’m the commercial controller at Irwin’s Bakery in Northern Ireland, heading up marketing and new product development.
Our core business is dedicated to a range of brands, such as the Rankin Selection of speciality breads, which are on sale across Ireland and GB, and plant bread brands in Ireland, such as Irwin’s and Nutty Krust batch baked bread. We also have a hand-crafted cakes business called Howell House.
It’s my job to oversee brand development across the business, as well as NPD and product improvements.
What other experience do you have in the baking industry?
I’ve been at Irwin’s for nine years now. Before that, I worked for companies including Kerry Foods and Mr Kipling, primarily in sales and marketing roles.
How does working at Irwin’s differ to previous roles?
Irwin’s is a relatively small company and we are up against big brands such as Hovis and Kingsmill in Northern Ireland.
Our advantage is that, because we’re a local company, we can develop products that are specifically suited to the market. We can regionalise products, while other brands have a bigger market to look at.
For example, there are high cases of osteoporosis and calcium deficiency in Northern Ireland, so our bread is fortified with calcium and folic acid. We also developed low-salt bread long before any of the current targets were introduced.
What are the most important aspects of your role?
I have to bring the technical and marketing sides of the business together. It’s about working out how to communicate the great ideas and products we have to consumers.
As part of the senior management team, an important part of my job is stepping back from the day-to-day work to look at long-term direction and wider trends.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Innovation is often about making life easier for people, whether that’s resealable packs or using less salt. A good way of doing this is by looking at other sectors of the retail industry for ideas. I always like to walk around a supermarket as a consumer, looking at anything from washing powder to cheese. It’s not just about what your competitors are doing.