A young woman has climbed from the front line to senior management at a top food wholesaler in just two years.
University of Chester graduate Josie Swift, 29, has been appointed as the new Head of Purchasing at fast-growing Harlech Foodservice, which has bases in Cricieth in Gwynedd and Chester.
Josie knows all about food products and about the hospitality industry – she wrote her degree dissertation on the provenance of fish fingers and then ran pubs for brewing giant Greene King.
She switched careers after suffering a knee injury falling into a pub cellar and joined fast-growing Harlech two years ago as a purchasing assistant.
Within six months she was Supply Chain Manager, heading up a team dealing with all the company’s purchasing and based at their Chester office, off Sealand Road with easy access to their target areas for growth, the North West and West Midlands.
Harlech Managing Director David Cattrall said: “The top levels of the catering industry are generally dominated by men even though women make most food purchasing decisions and it is great to see a woman promoted on merit to bring some balance to our previously all male leadership team.
“Josie joined us as a purchasing assistant and quickly made the climb to junior management and now to senior management level where our strategic and tactical decisions are made.
“She has a managerial background with Greene King and is there on merit because of her ability and her skills and has shown a natural aptitude for the requirements of the role.”
Josie played a major role in organising the successful annual Harlech Food Expo at Llandudno which generated a record £600,000 in orders and attracted over 2,500 trade customers.
Her new promotion means she now heads up the team responsible for buying 5,000 product lines for the Criccieth-based business which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and is on course to double its turnover to more than £50 million after announcing a major contract with NHS Wales.
She said: “At university I studied animal behaviour and actually wrote my dissertation for my degree on the testing of fish fingers to see if they are really the type of fish they say they are.
“I worked in pubs part-time and then for Greene King, managing pubs until I had an unfortunate fall down a cellar and damaged my knee quite badly so I switched to office work and joined Harlech in Chester two years ago.
“We order directly from the suppliers and I love working with them, especially the businesses in Wales, and helping them grow and we can grow with them and I really love that.
“The Welsh Government have a big drive on to get Welsh suppliers providing Welsh products for Welsh schools and hospitals and we’re committed to that as well which us helping us win contracts.
“The fact that we also have a base in Chester means we can reach new customers in the North West of England and the Midlands and some of our suppliers from England can deliver to us more easily here than to Criccieth.
“It’s a great job, really fun. I love ice cream and one of the perks is that we get to test the new flavours the year before they come out.”
Harlech’s presence in Chester and Criccieth means that they can serve their traditional markets in the tourism and hospitality industries in North West Wales and win new business in North East Wales and in England.
In the past 12 months they have been awarded important contracts for schools in Flintshire and Wrexham – they already supply Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire, as well as for Knowsley on Merseyside.
They also deliver to Keele University, in Staffordshire, where cutting food miles helped them win the contract along with their membership of TUCO – The University Caterers Organisation.
David Cattrall added: “What this appointment says about us as a company is that we are an equal opportunities employer which rewards ability and that Josie is just one of a number of women doing important jobs with us and doing them very well.”