For Bethany Glenn, being able to try to ensure that Foodstuffs makes decisions that positively impact communities across the country, is an enormous privilege. She’s also excited to watch these communities grow stronger as their cooperative ownership diversifies.
HS: What did you study/ what experience do you have that lead you to this work?
BG: After a fair bit of panic about ‘my future’, with seemingly life-altering decisions to be made about the direction of my study, I finally settled on Food Science & Nutrition after my first year at the University of Auckland. I was incredibly lucky to get a role with Colmar Brunton in their Sensory Research department in my last year of uni. I worked part-time at Colmar Brunton, whilst finishing my last four papers at uni – two per semester. Following on from this I was offered a full-time position in the team. I worked on a wide variety of projects – from beer to chocolate to yoghurt to crackers and cheese – and was welcomed by the family that is Colmar Brunton. After about two years I took a role in the Strategy & New Ventures team at Foodstuffs North Island. It was definitely a change of direction, but I felt that I wanted to broaden my career opportunities and spend some time working in less of a niche. Currently, I am a business partner in the Strategy & New Ventures team at Foodstuffs North Island and I love it.
What’s your favourite part about your job?
As a general overview, the role of our team is split into two defining the strategic direction for the overall business, which includes a lot of moving parts across the different brands and evaluating any new ventures we might want to enter into. The work we do varies greatly – both in terms of the subject matter and the exceptional people we get to work with across the business. There’s always something new to learn, or a challenge to be tackled – it’s never boring and the opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally is unparalleled. My team, and the wider team of people I work with on a regular basis, are truly awesome. We’re all proud to call ourselves foodies and it definitely shows. My last point on this question would be the unique chance to affect change at such a scale. We have 24,000 employees across 330 stores in the North Island, in an industry which the entire population interacts with – we all need to eat. I’m in a very privileged position to try to ensure that our business makes decisions which positively impacts our communities. This may sound like some sort of Gen Z/Millennial utopian outlook, but trust me, it’s not.
How does your average day play out?
We just moved into a new purpose-built building on Landing Drive in Māngere. This includes the support centre and a giant 80,000m2 distribution centre. Most days, you’ll find me here on level 1 (sometimes you’ll find me in the Foodies Mini Mart, specifically the snack aisle). We work around a 6-weekly board cycle to take information and decisions to the directors. My days usually consist of a bit of focus time, researching, reading, and writing reports to inform the exec team and board on long-term business decisions, as well as a variety of meetings with people across the business, working on current projects or planning for future work. In addition to this, I’m also part of an internal group known as the Future Leaders Advocacy Group (FLAG for short). It’s a group of nine young people across the business who have the opportunity to challenge our leadership team, ensuring we have a greater diversity of thought. On a day-to-day basis, we get opportunities to review and input into initiatives across the business, attend some leadership team meetings, feedback (unedited) to the board, and establish our own projects.
What are you most excited about seeing happening in your field in the future?
So much. The grocery industry has a lot of room for innovation, particularly in the digital and tech space. Imagine a future where your fridge knows what’s in it and when they’ll need replacing. You’ve also added extras to the shopping list on the tablet, which is embedded in the front of the fridge. It sends an order through to the supermarket micro-fulfilment centre where your groceries are picked and packed and delivered back to your house without you lifting a finger. The rise in convenience enabled by technology is going to be a really cool thing to experience as a customer in the future. On a more specific-to-foodies note, I’m excited to see how our communities will grow. Being a co-operative, each individually owned supermarket is able to support the community it operates in. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching our ownership as it becomes more diverse, resulting in stronger communities and greater future for everyone.
What is something significant you’ve learnt on the job that you wish someone had told you at the start?
Firstly, no one really knows what they’re doing, and you’re not expected to know exactly where you’ll be in life in 10 years. Just be curious and willing to learn. Ask a lot of questions and show interest. You’ll figure it out. Something my dad told me a few years ago was to apply for the job or put your hand up for the opportunity, even if you don’t think you’ll get it. You’ll always learn from the experience, you’ll meet new people, and there are plenty of unqualified men putting their hands up for things so you may as well try too.