Career Conversations: ‘Why I’m glad I fought for a career in food’

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Liz Littlewood says she struggled at first to convince her parents and her teachers that a career in food was a good choice: “I had to fight quite hard to continue doing it at school and then university.”

But she did persevere and now, as Co-op’s Lead Technical Manager for Ambient Foods, Non-Food, Beers, Wines and Spirits, she says she’s so pleased she stuck with it.

“I’m really glad I got a job that I really enjoy and I’ve had a varied career,” she tells Elisa Roche in this episode of the Career Conversations podcast series.

Liz’s journey so far has seen her get a degree in Food Technology at Manchester Met University, work for M&S, Morrisons, and now the Co-op.

Her current role comes with a fair bit of power, she and her team have the ability to stop a product going into stores at pretty much any stage of the development process.

It also requires a bit of knowledge about a lot of things, from the manufacturing process, to packaging, transport and distribution, and legal and legislative requirements.

“You end up maybe not being an expert on everything, but having a wide range of knowledge across lots of things,” she says. “And you certainly know the right person to ask!”

Listen to the full episode to find out exactly what a Lead Technical Manager does, the parts Liz enjoys most about her job, and the product she has worked on that has apparently caught the eye of Kate Moss.

Liz Littlewood, Lead Technical Manager for Ambient Foods, Non-Food, Beers, Wines and Spirits, Co-op

Liz joined the Co-op in 2016 as Head of NPD across Fresh and Chilled. In 2019, Liz moved back to Technical, to become Lead Technical Manager of the Dairy & Protein team. In October 2021, Liz moved to lead the Ambient Foods, BWS & Non-Food Technical team.

Prior to Co-op, Liz held various NPD positions within Morrisons and Northern Foods covering a vast range of categories during this time. 

Liz began her career with Marks & Spencer in Food Technical having undertaken an undergraduate placement within the business. 

Liz enjoys all things food and has a passion for collaborative working and solving challenges.

Get to know Liz – 5 quick questions

What’s your career highlight so far?

“For me it’s all about people. When I see somebody developing in their role, or when somebody who’s come as a undergraduate placement, and comes back to the business as a graduate, that makes me really proud.”

What would you like to see the industry at large doing more of?

“Informing customers more about what we do within the food industry. We work really, really hard and often we get a bad press. I also think the industry should promote careers more. There are lots of reasons why it’s a great career.”

What’s the most useful mistake you’ve made in your career?

“A long time ago I was on a train to London to go and have an interview for an undergraduate placement with M&S. I’d mis-read a letter and thought that the other interview I should have been at was the day after, and it wasn’t. So by default I’d chosen one of the interviews over another. I got the M&S job, but it could have gone a very different way, as my lecturer reminded me the next day.”

What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

“Worry less about your career. It will evolve, it will take twists and turns but that’s ok. It’s ok not to know everything right at the beginning because it will happen.”

What’s your favourite meal?

“I’m going to slightly cheat. I’m going to say it’s a type of meze or platter because I can’t pick one thing. When I think about the experiences I’ve had where I’ve really enjoyed the food, it’s where there’s been lots of different variety. Give me a table full of lots of different things and let me go and pick amongst it and I’m really, really happy.”

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