We were very proud and delighted recently to learn that Commercial Manager Emily Herrero made it onto The Grocer’s ‘Top New Talent’ list. So we caught up with her to learn a bit more about what got her to this point and any lessons she’s learnt along the way!
What’s your background?
After university (I studied Spanish) I initially joined a food business working in Procurement of Fresh Produce, then moved into Account Management and gained experiences in a couple other food businesses – managing customer relationships and developing categories. This gave me a great grounding in the food industry but I was after a new challenge so joined Winterbotham Darby in 2014.
Having gained an IGD Post Grad Certificate in Food Management, which gave me exposure to HR, finance, marketing and branding, I was becoming increasingly more interested in brands. Whilst Winterbotham Darby are predominantly own-label they are also keen to grow and develop brands, so I was hopeful for an opportunity to move into this area.
As luck would have it, one of our Spanish producers was developing an exciting new product. Whilst our core business is within olives and antipasti and continental meat, our strategy also focuses on development areas such as alternative proteins and meat-free – which this new product fell into. Once we learnt a bit about the product and their plans, we decided to work with them to develop the product and the brand. Hence oomi, the protein noodle brand, was born!
Why was oomi the right project for you?
oomi needed someone to ‘own’ it and it was an opportunity to evolve a product which had so much potential. So we approached this differently and allocated a Commercial Manger (me), Marketing Assistant, Insight Manager, NPD Manager and Supply Chain specialist. Although we ran it like a start-up we were able to pull other strengths from around the business – using the existing knowledge that has been gained from own label to benefit the brand and bring the product to market.
To say it’s been a tough challenge is an understatement! We’ve had to carry out an enormous range of activities, just to ensure we can get the product to market; product research, developing the recipe, signing off the nutritionals/ingredients, the look and feel of the brand, on-pack claims.
What was the biggest challenge?
Getting retailers to listen, or even agree to meet with you. Also it’s important to understand that power lies with certain people. Conversations can take between 1 day and 18 months to happen so you need to be patient and stay motivated!
What’s been your biggest learning?
Face-to-face meetings are so important – build rapport in person. Perseverance and enthusiasm are important, but so is a thick skin. Keep focussed. But also test and learn.
In terms of where we pitch the product, creating a hit list for stockists was next on the list. Loads of people eat noodles and so there’s a pretty big opportunity across the market. But picking the right targets was really important, and in the right order. Sometimes you can’t get a listing without a listing, so it can be a vicious circle.
Highlights in getting the product to shelf
Early on we ran research sessions, with an external agency. We knew there was a market and that consumers would buy the product but we needed to the all-important data to underpin the initial retailer sell-in meetings. This has proven invaluable.
Now we’re listed the best highlights are the customer feedback! We’re really active on social media, visiting food festivals and industry events etc. and we love hearing what people have to say about oomi. They are so keen to give us their feedback, how they eat them and share their recipes. Because it’s gluten free it has also proven really popular with the coeliac community who can now enjoy noodles, when before they couldn’t. This feels like a great achievement.
The testimonial that was submitted for Emily reads:
“Emily doesn’t take no for an answer. Customers that fail to pick up her calls are liable to find the commercial manager on their doorstep convincing them in person and this same “impatience, persistence and urgency” drove her to develop brand new noodle brand oomi from scratch, a ‘next generation’ gluten free noodle made from sustainably sourced fish.
From concept, to product to listings in Tesco, Ocado and Morrisons Emily “doesn’t understand the meaning of resting on her laurels and listings are just the start” with the businesswoman also turning her attentions to alternative protein brand Vivera, quickly achieving UK listings in Sainsbury’s, Ocado and Waitrose. Quite simply “Emily is one of the most talented and inspiring people I have worked with.”
If you want to read more of Emily’s peers who were also recognised in the awards, click here to visit thei website.