A graduate’s guide to the health food industry – working in an FMCG start-up | Graduate Blog
GRADUATES 020 7100 8800 EMPLOYERS 020 3126 4595

A graduate’s guide to the health food industry – working in an FMCG start-up

Main Image

The health food industry is booming. From healthy curry takeaways to fermented tea, natural sodas, alternative ice cream and craft chocolate – these last few years have seen an explosion of health food start-ups. Refreshingly, these companies are all driven by their passion for food, not just about filling a gap in the market.

One of Give A Grad A Go’s clients is London-based food and drinks company, Rude Health. Rude Health was co-founded in 2005 by husband and wife, Nick and Camilla Barnard. What started out as The Ultimate Muesli in their Wandsworth kitchen, became Rude Health 11 years later, now making and selling a wide variety of food and drink throughout the UK and abroad – and has recently opened it’s very own café in Fulham.

Rude Health are a small and outspoken team who take pride in food made from the kind of ingredients you’d have in your own kitchen - nothing artificial, nothing refined. We spoke with Rosie Gordon Lennox from Rude Health’s Brand & Partnerships team to find out more about working in a health food start-up, and what advice can be given to graduates looking to launch a graduate career within the health food industry.

What’s it like working within the world of food?

The best thing about working for a ‘start-up’ health food brand (apart from the unlimited supplies of food) is that everyone you meet within the industry is united on a common interest: food. People who work in food all like eating and drinking out, hosting and cooking. Your ‘small talk’ isn’t what the weather’s like or who won the rugby at the weekend, but whether you’ve tried a charcoal latte, queued up for the new dumpling shack pop-up, or managed to get tickets for the next Carousel supper club. It’s an exciting and generous world to be working in.

Collaboration with other food brands is quite common. We like to work with other food brands, particularly the newer wave of smaller start-up brands as they share our food values, consumers, and energy. As a result, there’s a large support base within the industry which means partnership opportunities are endless.

What kind of graduate jobs do you have within the Rude Health team?

We don’t make our food on site, so Rude Health’s office is really a sales/marketing hub split into independent, convenience and multiple sales, marketing, operations and finance. We sit opposite one another and have most ‘meetings’ as conversations over the table at our desk. Whether it’s answering the telephone, unloading the next palette of stock, deciding on our next colour of branded beanie, choosing the next café special or what flavour our new granola should be– everyone in Rude Health has a say and everyone gets stuck in. Collaboration is key within our team as one doesn’t work without the other, and we all know this.

graduate health food jobs

What does a normal day looks like?

What’s a normal day?! The great thing about working in a start-up is the variety, and unpredictability that comes with it – we could be working in the office one day, standing on exhibition stands the next, giving out porridge to commuters in the morning or shooting recipe videos in another. It’s this variety and excitement that keep us motivated. No two days are the same. To give you an example, my day today has involved something as macro as meeting to discuss what the ‘essence’ of the Rude Health brand is and what our new tag line will be – to something as minor as deciding on which luxury key ring attachment to use for our new children’s merchandise, meanwhile someone will be saving lives.

What advice can be given to graduates who want to work for a health food start-up?

The best advice given to me was to think about what makes you happy/where you tend to find yourself drawn to at the weekend and make that into a job. Working in a start-up is undoubtedly exciting. You have the responsibility and flexibility you wouldn’t get elsewhere and that’s what I love about it. Working for Rude Health has made me learn to make quick decisions and be ready to adapt to many a situation. It can be hard to make a ‘plan’ when things change so quickly – which is as liberating as it is frustrating. It is in industry where one must use initiative, and not expect nannying. This lack of rigorous structure and formal training doesn’t float everyone’s boat so my advice would be to get as much experience working for a small business as you can through paid placements. You will always learn something, even if it’s that you don’t want to work for that company or in that sector. Knowing where you don’t want to work is very often as, if not more, valuable than knowing where you do.

Paid placements also provide a brilliant opportunity to speak to people within the industry. Go to as many events, exhibitions and networking drinks as you can. Keep talking to people as you will always learn from them, and you never know who you may meet at a yoga event, a café opening or food festival – and where that will take you. I found the process of applying for graduate jobs so valuable as writing cover letters for specific jobs can reveal your skill set to you.

Do you think a nutritional degree is necessary?

I would say a nutritional degree is not essential. As cliché as it sounds, a ‘go getter’ attitude, hunger and belief in the company is what you really need, the rest you can learn on the job. The marketing department in Rude Health, for example, is made up of a Japanese, politics, history of art and geography graduates! A nutritional degree cements an interest in the health food world, but work experience, a proactive involvement in university activities, a food blog or Instagram account can be more powerful and beneficial. Join as many societies as you can at university, organize events, get involved in food projects– it is these proactive skills that small businesses look out for.

Find out more about Rude Health and enjoy a scroll through their delicious health foods.

Get the latest Fashion & FMCG job updates straight to your inbox

Hungry for an FMCG graduate job? Don’t forget to check out our Graduate Jobs Board – or our Graduate Blog for more career advice.

Related blog posts