The end of 2018 was somewhat of a blur. All I can seem to remember is deadlines and paperwork. It was only during the Christmas break it truly hit home that I had been accepted to proceed to trial with SuperValu. The true meaning of the accomplishment still hasn’t hit home yet due to how much goes on, on a daily basis to get things ready for the launch! In fact, it will probably be some time yet due to what is required to make this business successful.
The Food Academy programme itself is one of the best things I’ve taken part in and it most definitely helps food start-ups to be ready for getting a product to the shelf. I can’t imagine how long it would take nor the lack of knowledge a start-up would have if they didn’t complete such a programme. It is possible, it would just take much longer and a lot more trial and error. The modules are critical to understanding how a food business works and what is required prior to getting your product into a store. I think in my scenario the learnings were multiplied as I was stepping into a new industry which can be daunting.
Being a Commercial Manager of a subcontractor I thought I would understand the numbers, profits margins etc. But the food industry is a whole different ball game with all of the different margins for the different sectors involved. Retail margins, Food Service margins, Distributor margins, VAT rates etc. Without the food academy, it would have been difficult to know all these things. These pieces of information are crucial to setting out your costing module. If there is one incorrect margin or if you don’t include the right VAT %, it could void the whole cost model.
The legislation and regulations involved are terrifying! I didn’t realise how many rules there were looking in from the outside. Even something as simple as a product’s container / packaging. There is a small book on what must and what must not be on that packaging! One slip up and the product can be recalled. I remember looking around the room at one point during that module and everyone looked pretty nervous!
December 5th was the SuperValu Presentation. I will never forget that morning as long as I live for many reasons. A lot of work goes in to getting the presentation together, correct info, detailed slides, Corry board graphics (if possible). The presentation itself lasts for five minutes with five minutes Q&A with SuperValu managers / directors. A lot of work for 5 minutes right! But it is probably the most important 5 minutes on the Food Academy journey. I was originally scheduled for the 5th presentation but end up going 3rd.. There had been one or two incidents with traffic that morning which disrupted the whole start to the presentations. People were late (including me) which meant there had to be a shuffle in the order. I was nervous due to the fact I knew I had to cook my three pizzas a lot earlier than what was first planned. Everybody was helping each other prior to the presentations so it made things go that bit smoother. Not to mention my father taking a day off just to help cook the pizzas. I was actually glad in the long run that I went earlier in the order as it just got it out of the way.
There is so much pressure and nerves involved that it is just better to get it over and done with. When I look back on that day I think that the disruptions made things more realistic. Not everything goes smoothly, especially when setting up and trying to run a business. It was a clear sign of things to come for the months that follow!
I’d say the thing I enjoyed the most about the food academy was the people I was surrounded by. So many good people with not only good products but good advice and feedback. We got on great and it most definitely helped to get through the programme. When you work in a predominately negative environment (being the Construction Industry) it was a breath of fresh air to see so many people working together, helping another company achieve the same goal, which is getting a product on a SuperValu shelf.