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Thank you to everyone who works in the food industry.

I have worked in or with the food industry for over 15 years now, my brother and sister in law for over 20 years each, and I have a huge amount of friends who still work in this industry and it’s an amazing industry. The pace is like nothing you’ll ever know, the pressure is immense and at this time of year, if you work with a product that is consumed over Christmas, the chances of you taking any holiday is pretty much zero. But not everyone knows about this industry and I think people who work in this industry are unsung heroes. And here’s why.

December 2010 / 2011 is described as one of the worst winters in history, describing heavy snow falls, record low temperatures and travel chaos and it was the last Christmas I worked in the food industry. The only day I had off from the October until the January was 21st December when a lorry crashed into me on my way to work at 6.30am, minus 5 degrees and pitch black. Production was 24/7 and on one occasion as I drove to work at silly o’clock, the temperature on my car said -17.5 degrees, I remember this as I took a photo and sent it to my Dad who was living in Queensland at the time. That was the day that it was too cold to even pump the flour into the factory to make the desserts!  And the Saturday before Christmas, I was at a cold store on the outskirts of Grimsby watching 100,000 profiteroles coming out of the freezer, and I spent the day after Boxing Day on a conference call for about an hour, while my goddaughter patiently held my hand waiting to go out to have some festive fun. I carried a folder around with me for months which contained everything I needed to know as my brain couldn’t possibly hold every single detail on SKU’s, order dates, use by and display until dates, depot splits, packaging details, production v forecast, and all the key people in the business had a copy of this folder.  The words rang in my ear of going to a Retailers Christmas conference the previous April…..”If you fail to deliver Christmas, don’t bother to deliver anything else to us throughout the year.”

So when December 25th came, I really didn’t give a stuff about the stuffing. And in January, we did “The Christmas Autopsy” while it was still fresh in our minds, what went well? What went wrong? And in February, we started all the planning over again. But what about the people who design the recipes & all the product development? Well the chances are, these dedicated & creative people are working even further ahead, by the time Christmas arrives, they’ve probably already thought of what will work the following Christmas. Because unlike toys, decorations, cards & wrapping paper, there is a shelf life on these products and you don’t want to open some food where the use by is before Christmas, you want fresh food that lasts the festive season while shops close for at least 24 hours….which quite simply, we’re not used to! 

And while there is quite rightly a huge amount of appreciation for all the people who provide us with medical care round the clock, the emergency services, the Forces, I think people who work 24/7 to provide the amazing food and drink that we consume throughout the year, and more so at this time of the year, don’t get enough appreciation. So over the next week or two, when you’re tucking into some amazing dessert, or you’ve just popped open a nice bottle of Fizz, when you sit around the table to a feast of red cabbage & turkey, or whether you’ve pushed the boat out and are having a “Bird in a bird in a bird”, please spare a thought to the people who work to deliver all the amazing food & drink to you throughout the year and in particular, over this busy time of the year.

FoodJo Richardson