Industry Expert Series: Q+A with Holland and Barrett

We spoke to Ben, Product and Introduction Developer for Holland and Barrett about his career in the food and drink industry! 


What is the best part about working in the food and drink industry?

I’d say that it’s common to us all.  We require it for sustenance, yes, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s for all occasions, it’s families sitting around the table and the incredible flavours and tastes that are to be enjoyed out there.  It creates memories, can transport you back to a places in time, it’s everything – it’s a huge part of what makes us human.

When you were younger, did you have a dream career?

No, it was unsure what I wanted to do.  I think it’s very hard to know what you want to be when you leave school.  I had a passion for sport and looked at pursuing that but I also had a part time job in a kitchen which I loved and found the skills required came quite naturally to me.  When I was around 19 I decided to pursue food full time and embarked upon a University degree in Culinary Arts.  I guess you could say I haven’t looked back.

What has been a significant moment in your career?

Transitioning from the hospitality sector over to product development.  I learned so much from working in pubs and restaurants up until my early 20s but I quickly become aware of the toll it was taking on me with long and unsociable hours, particularly when I saw my peers working 9-5 jobs and older chefs who’d sadly lost their passion.  Food development was the perfect opportunity for me to continue working with food but created a great work-life balance as well.  I was lucky to be given my first opportunity as a Junior Development Chef by Bakkavor in 2011, creating ready meals for M&S.

If you were stuck on a desert island and could choose one food or drink product to have, which would you choose and why?

There’s so many to choose from.  My ‘go to’ choices are either a really authentic Indian curry or Chicken Wings with buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip (there’s just so much going on there, spice, acid, creamy, tangy, hot…)


Keep reading for an insight into what stands out in the market for Health Food Retailing!


What brand stands out for you and you have enjoyed working with/ would love to work with and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many retailers and various brands who’ve all got their own USPs – I can’t split them.  Politician’s answer here I’m afraid!

Is there a product launch that was very successful you have been involved in that surprised you the most? 

I think when we started to see the emergence of veganism and now, more commonly ‘plant based’ dishes, the demand and numbers are astounding.  I remember placing a vegan dish on a pub menu during my time developing menus for Marston’s pubs and it become one of the best sellers.  On that note – just how much food photography can influence customer’s choices also.

What stands out for you the most in health food retailing and as a buyer what is a key thing you look out for?

At the moment it’s about 3 things, Immunity Support, Gut Health and Plant Based foods – and how these are interlinked.  Particularly the link consumers are making between Gut Health and Immunity as they being to realise that 70% of our immune cells lie in our digestive systems.  When you feed into that (literally) a more diverse range of plant based foods, you on a journey to improving your overall health.