Meet the team: A Chat with Duncan Spencer-Brown, Procurement Specialist


How did you come to work in procurement?

I never planned to work within the Food Industry and had originally thought I would go into land management. However, while in my final year of university I was fortunate to come across the Hilton Food Group graduate recruitment scheme and decided to follow this different path.

Initially I worked within factories all across Europe and was lucky to be able to travel and build a very strong factory and retail pack knowledge which has always served me well within procurement. There were so many experienced people and mentors who helped guide and develop me during this process which moved more to focus on raw material procurement and management. I then made the move to Tesco where I was lucky to join a really experienced team, this is where I honed my procurement skills. The key call out for me is to listen to people and soak in their experience and take learnings, build up a strong network and keep in touch with the people who have helped you develop in your career, never be afraid to ask questions and take lots of notes!

What can your typical day to day work look like here at FC, how is it similar/different to other roles in which you have worked?

No day is the same at Foods Connected, but I try to keep to the same routine – typically starting with a catch up on industry news, followed by prioritising what needs to be reviewed and completed. Then it’s into a series of planned team catch ups to review current projects and offer support where needed to the team and also direct customer meetings where we can be discussing new projects and concept ideas. This would be different to my previous roles due to the wide spectrum of customers and industry sectors, with less routine tasks and objectives and more strategic and blue sky thinking.

How did you come to know of FC ?

I was previously working for a UK major retailer, where Foods Connected was introduced as an opportunity to help streamline and de-mystify the buying process, from there I was able to get to know the team and understand better how it was shaping the Food supply chain for the future.

When did you start working with FC, (and in what role, what does that role entail)

I joined Foods Connected in September 2017, initially I went out to Australia for 18 months where I helped establish the new team, alongside developing our strategy and leading the role out of our full suite of tools (from supply chain & quality management to procurement) with a major retail partner.

What moment are you most proud of in your work here?

For me it has to be seeing the team grow and helping people who are in the early stages of their career path develop and hone their skills. I have always been grateful for the time people have given me and so take a lot of satisfaction being able to pass on a few of the things I have learnt.

What you are passionate about working towards on an ongoing basis here at FC?

Strategic thinking and empowering the team so everyone is involved in shaping a business we want to work for as it grows and continues to be the software platform of choice for food professionals by food professionals.

What has your experience been so far of working with Foods Connected?

To date I have really enjoyed working at Foods Connected, we have a strong leadership team and an ever-evolving business. The pace of change keeps everything exciting and it has been a real opportunity for me to learn much more about companies working outside of my historic “Meat” background.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

I really enjoy the problem-solving aspects of what we do, from speaking to customers and understanding their challenges to helping them overcome them with a combination of industry expertise and leading software solutions. No two companies are the same and its rewarding to see how blue-sky thinking can really help bring existing and inefficient processes into the 21st century.

What do you like about the team?

Everyone is open and approachable; we have a flat structure and open-door policy. The mixture of expertise from the IT and Food Industry is something I really like which has meant that over time I have become a lot more aware of the work required to build technology solutions taking a concept or idea to a fully functioning user-friendly solution.

What is daily life like working at Foods Connected?

Foods Connected really has a team culture with everyone stepping in to go the extra mile when needed, I like this as it brings me back to my days in the factory role. People are happy to make suggestions on how we approach improvement, and it creates healthy debate and shapes the business for the better. This can be seen by our employee feedback at the end of last year where the holiday entitlement was raised as being an area for improvement – which we reviewed as a leadership team and took action.

Has the job and the company lived up to what you expected?

I am not sure what I expected when I joined the business – but I continue to enjoy what I do!

What skills have you developed at FC?

For me Foods Connected has really helped me finetune delivering through others, as your team grows and having overall responsibility for all the projects we deliver with customers it is essential to get the best out of your team and give them the support they need to succeed. I have also learnt a lot about the IT and coding world – but this is still an area where each day I learn something new!

Would you recommend working here to a friend?

Yes I really would – it’s a great business to work for, with opportunities to develop yourself and develop your career.

What’s your favourite memory since you started working with Foods Connected?

My favourite moment has to be working rather late in Australia with Gary Tyre our System Development Director ahead of one of our launches (we had a few last-minute challenges), he was busy doing the clever coding/development work and I was checking the system was outputting the right information. It’s amazing what you can deliver under pressure and we made sure we hit the deadline for our customer. A few beers were had afterwards that weekend.

What would you predict is going to be a big area for the food industry this year in terms of procurement, buying and selling?

I believe procurement will continue to become more digitised over the coming years, however this will not remove the need for expert buyers in their relevant fields but aid them to make more informed decisions based on evidence that is transparent and supports their predictions and assumptions. With uncertain markets and growing challenges this should be viewed as a way of protecting buyers and businesses, helping showcase why decisions were made based on the information available to them at that time rather than “gut feel or I think” which can leave everyone exposed if the market doesn’t react in the way expected.