Rupert Ashby is the new CEO of the British Frozen Food Federation, joining after a successful career at The CLA as Director of Membership and Regions.
Rupert joined us recently for a catch up in the office and of course we had to ask him our 5 Questions!
What's the single biggest challenge facing our industry today?
The current levels of food inflation at record highs. The effect of this on top of energy prices and some unstable supply chains is making day to day business challenging for BFFF members.
What do you think the next big product / piece of tech will be?
In terms of products, the increasing innovation and availability of restaurant grade food in the frozen aisle is exciting and starting to really make a difference to foot fall at the retailers. Several retailers have reported more traffic in the frozen section and there are some really delicious products there.
We run the British Frozen Food Awards to recognise these products and the judging process for the 2023 Frozen Food Awards are currently taking place across the UK from Powys to Norwich, and from Kent to Newcastle assessing our retail entries. The panels consist of twelve people from all walks of life as they assess presentation, taste, quality, textures, the packaging and more for each product. I have attended some of the panels and am impressed with the quality of the entries. The judging process finishes with two days at Barnsley College where professional Chefs will cook and taste the retail and foodservice entries. Once complete, the scores are collated with the winners unveiled at our Gala Dinner Dance on the 15th June 2023. From the panels so far, it looks like the top 3 in some categories will be decided by just a couple of points, such is the quality of the entries.
The Dinner Dance and award ceremony is a key date in our 75th Anniversary celebrations and takes place almost 75 years to the day from our formation in June 1948.
In terms of Tech – the development of robotics to handle product in unpleasant environments for humans – for example mixing of ingredients that could cause respiratory issues for us.
What do you like most about our industry?
The innovation and fast pace of everything going on……and having to try our members products!
What was your first ever job in our industry?
I started my working life in farming many years ago as a farm manager growing vining peas for Birds Eye, Broccoli and Cauliflower for Tesco, M&S and Sainsburys, and potatoes for McCain and McDonalds amongst cereal crops. The farm I worked at near Wisbech was part of a trial to produce 90-minute peas – which meant we had 90 minutes from the moment the pea viner started to get the peas harvested, into a lorry, off farm to the factory and frozen. This is the norm for some producers now, but was a new slightly crazy thing then.
What piece of advice would you like to give to your 21-year-old self?
You will come across situations where you are turned down for a role in favour of someone who ‘has already done this role before and so has more experience’ inspite of your clear ability and enthusiasm which is often far more important than experience. Don’t let them get you down and put you off, maintain your enthusiasm and stick at it. You will in the end come across someone who really knows what they are doing in recruitment and will have the foresight and gravity to recognise your skills.