Sainsbury’s Own Brand Scheme Profile

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The Own Brand division of British grocer Sainsbury is the heart of the Sainsbury’s brand and responsible for the integrity of every Private Brand product sold. That encompasses every aspect of the product – where and how it is sourced, its packaging, how well it meets customers’ needs, the intrinsic safety and health values, and, of course, how tasty it is.

Sainsbury’s diverse Own Brand team cover includes areas such as Product Technology, Product Development, Product Quality & Safety, Agriculture, Packaging Technology, Projects, Systems & Reporting and Sustainable & Ethical Sourcing. Who work with hundreds of suppliers around the world to source thousands of products; the team is involved at every step of the process from finding the next new product idea and bringing it to market to working with suppliers to set quality standards.

The Sainsbury’s own brand team operates a new graduate training program, which in the UK is called a “graduate scheme” to find and develop new recruits for their team. The Own Brand graduate scheme, which is a yearlong scheme, which is split into two six-month placements within the own brand division. New Graduate Natalie Quint spent her first six months within the Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing team and the second within Meal Solutions in product development.

Quint recounts her experiences below:

Natalie Quint: A Taste of Own Brand

I am one of the six Own Brand Graduates from the September 2013 intake. So, how did I get here?

Well, growing up I always had an interest in food, health and cooking and this led me to study for a degree in Food Science and Nutrition. I found out about the Own Brand graduate scheme at a careers evening when members of the Sainsbury’s Own Brand team came into my university to present on the great opportunities Sainsbury’s has to offer Science graduates with a passion for food, as well as their incredible Taste the World scheme.
After making it through the application process I was offered a place on the graduate scheme and took the opportunity to take a Sainsbury’s style gap year in the form of “Taste the World”.

I spent the year completing work placements at four different global food suppliers. From vegetable farms in Kenya and sourcing in Hong Kong, to tropical fruit in Costa Rica and finishing up with lamb in New Zealand. I made some fantastic memories, and above all learnt a great deal about the global food industry. I gained a huge appreciation of all the hard work that goes on worldwide to bring the food that we buy day in day out to our stores and onto our plates!

The graduate scheme is split into two years, the first year is structured so that you start with a store placement to understand the dynamic world of retail and then return to our Holborn office to complete 6 placements with different divisions of the Own Brand team. The first year placements include Product Development, Product Technology, Product Safety, Sustainable and Ethical sourcing, Projects, Systems and Reporting and Packaging. So as you can see it’s a jam packed year!

The great thing about this first year is that you get exposure to all of the different teams and learn how all the teams operate together and support each other. In the second year you specialize into a more permanent role within one team.
As our placements vary in length, I’ve definitely learnt to work at pace. I’ve also become a lot better at managing my time and planning how to get the most out of the day. It’s also really good to be flexible as often you may be asked to help out with something that you hadn’t planned or go on a supplier visit. This makes for a varied work life and it’s true that no two days are the same!

I’m now just over half-way through my technical placement with the Product Technologist responsible for all Sainsbury’s home baking products. Technical is a really diverse area and the focus is on delivering great quality products that are safe and legal. I’ve been working on the technical build up to launch some new products. This has included visiting the site to see where the new products will be made and having regular meetings with the supplier to ensure we’re all on track with the technical requirements.

I’ve also been working with product suppliers during routine sampling where we assess the products against the set quality standards. During product development the product technologist and the supplier agree the quality standards for each and every product, and define the product attributes. Following this, every time the product is sampled it is checked against these standards, this helps to lock down quality and ensure consistency. I’ve been working to ensure that these quality standards are representative of the products and give enough detail to clearly define the product attributes. This has really helped to develop my product knowledge and improve my eye for detail.

One of the best things about Sainsbury’s is that from the moment you start the graduate scheme you have a line manager that you meet with regularly throughout the year, a mentor and a buddy – so there’s always a friendly face when you’re still getting to know people. There are always opportunities to get involved, and here in the picture you can see me at the Sainsbury’s stand at The Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia. Here we showcased some of our Free From products and talked to customers with food allergies about downloading free product guidance lists, giving them a full list of products suitable for them if they suffer from a food allergy. The event was a great way to demonstrate to some of the 30,000 guests how Sainsbury’s are living by their value of being “Best for food and health” by making customers with food allergies or intolerances lives easier.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.