Tasting chocolate every day: can you think of a better job?
Helen Cook, our Confectionery Product Manager, told us what it’s like to have the “best job in the world” tasting and developing Asda’s chocolate range:
At this time of year, everyone is gearing up to enjoy indulging in chocolate eggs – but for me, the joy of tasting Easter Eggs is year round. In fact, Easter weekend is the time I usually take a break from eating chocolate.
Working as a product manager it’s my job to understand exactly what it is customers are going to want to buy when it comes to Easter, and make sure we have the right treats in store for them – and enough of them to go around!
We start working on products over a year before they hit the shelves. Last Christmas, I went out to Geneva and tasted a huge variety of chocolate to see what was out there. We see what trends are coming through, build that into the new product brief and then work with our suppliers to develop these products. I studied Food Science and Microbiology at university, which is really useful in my role. It’s not just about having tasty products, it’s about understanding how factories work, how to keep them safe and how to build in specifications to ensure the end product is perfect.
Chocolate isn’t just a snack, it is often a gift, especially at times like Christmas and Easter. There’s been a big trend over the last year or so with customers looking to ‘trade up’ to more luxury categories for special treats and so we’ve been working with some really amazing companies, like Robert Walker, who have years of experience in chocolate making to develop some incredible products.
When it comes to Easter eggs, adults are looking for something more premium with higher milk solids – so we use a lot of Belgian chocolate in those eggs. My personal favourite is the Extra Special Belgian Milk Chocolate & Honeycomb Easter Egg. It’s dusted gold and looks as amazing as it tastes.
Children tend to like more of the traditional flavours – but they are really into our character ranges. These went down really well at Christmas and we are seeing the same again in the run up to Easter – such as Bella Bunny. Our customers love fun, novelty products, in the future maybe we’ll have more characters. We may even do a gnome egg!
Although I have the difficult task of tasting all the chocolate, there are a lot of people who work to make sure we get our range right. Several different colleagues work on each product, to make sure we get every element right from the packaging design, production and critically, having plenty to go around!
I really love my job. I’ve been with Asda for 8 months now and held a number of different roles in the food industry over a 20 year career, but this is definitely my favourite. My family and friends are always telling me I have the best job in the world – and I would agree. Although, this weekend when they are all tucking into their amazing Easter Eggs, I might just sit back and watch them enjoy!