My career in food and drink

Leah Fairlie, Trainee Food and Drink Consultant, SAC Consulting

Leah FairlieWhat does your organisation do?

We are a Food and Drink Consultancy team that work with food and drink businesses to help them grow. We work with various clients from individuals, companies and organisations to the Scottish Government.

An example of our work: A dairy farmer came to us looking for some help towards diversifying his farm in order to increase profitability. We looked at the various options from cheese, yoghurt and decided ice cream would be the best route to go down. We worked with the farmer to create a business plan, carried out market research and assisted with the creation of the new branding. This product range is now in full production and was recently entered into the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards.

Give an outline of how you got to this job i.e. school, college/university, first job etc.

At school I really enjoyed studying business management, but I didn't really know what I wanted to do for a career. I applied for various university courses to keep my options open, and when I received my grades I knew Rural Business Management at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), in Aberdeen was the best course for me.

This course had various streams and I chose to specialise in food. In the summer between my 3rd and 4th year I did a placement with the Food and Drink team at SAC, which involved researching Scottish farmers' markets. This then lead onto my 4th year dissertation in which I carried out research on the London farmers' markets and compared the two. After graduating with a BA (Hons) Rural Business Management I got a seasonal job with a soft fruit company. I then went travelling for nine months. When I returned home I was lucky enough to be able to return to my previous job, after a few months I noticed a position advertised with the Food and Drink team at SAC, the same team I had worked with previously, got an interview and was delighted to be offered the job as a Trainee Food and Drink Consultant.

What skills do you use in your job?

  • Communication skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Microsoft Office - Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Ability to work on your own and in a team
  • Time keeping
  • Multi-tasking
  • Problem solving

What are the entry qualifications?

Education: Marketing or Business degree with a food and drink element.

Experience: Understanding of marketing along with food and drink industry experience.

What do you particularly like about your job?

The job is so varied, one day you could be in Shetland working with a small group of producers and the next attending a black tie awards dinner. You are constantly learning about new and developing areas within the industry.

What “Fascinating Fact” would surprise people about your job/company/organisation?

We have assisted with the creation of the Scottish Chocolatiers Network, of which there are over 70 chocolatiers in Scotland.

What is the salary – or salary range for your job role(s)?

The starting salary for a Trainee Food and Drink Consultant is in the region of £21,000 - £25,000.

What advice would you give to school pupils thinking about pursuing a career like yours - or any career in the food and drink industry?

Gain experience where you can, it will not only look good on your CV but more importantly it will allow you to see where your strengths and interests lie.

What do you particularly like about the food and drink industry?

The ever changing trends, it's exciting to see new products being developed.

What did you want to be when you were 8?

An archaeologist.

What are your interests outside of work and does your work knowledge/skill set help with these?

My husband is a farmer and I have gained a lot of knowledge through living and helping out on the farm. Sometimes having a bit of practical knowledge helps when speaking to clients as it shows you have a certain level of understanding.

More information

Last reviewed: 21 Feb 2020