Alumni profile: Introducing Tiffin Annies
Anneka Hulme has blended her experience and passion for food technology and business to create her own business, Tiffin Annies. Before setting up her company, Anneka graduated with a 1st class honours in Food Marketing Management. She went on to work for Young’s Seafood and Froneri, where she gained huge experience and knowledge about the food industry which offers a wide range of career opportunities. Any students who are interested in a food-related career, business, or working for themselves will find Anneka’s Q and invaluable as she offers some fabulous tips and advice. And for anyone who has a taste for rocky road and tiffin…… then be sure to check out Anneka’s WEBSITE, FACEBOOK, or INSTAGRAM for the full menu of her amazing treats!
When did you become interested in a career in the food industry?
During my A-levels, I loved studying Food Technology and my teachers Mrs Thomson and Mrs Nicholson opened my eyes to all the opportunities within the food industry. Before this, I had never heard of food product development and what it entailed, or any of the other roles within the food industry.
What were your favourite subjects at school and what A-levels did you study?
My favourite subject was always Food Technology but enjoyed History and Maths. I went onto study Food Technology, Business Studies, English Literature and History.
Did you go to university, if so, where did you go and what course did you study?
Following my A-levels I went to Sheffield Hallam University to study Food Marketing Management, I graduated in 2008 with a 1st class honours. I wanted to combine my love of both Food Technology and Business Studies. There are lots of food-related degrees but many had a science focus which is not my favourite subject, my degree incorporated elements of these science specific degrees but also had a strong focus on business understanding.
What was your first job, was it in the food industry? If not, how did you end up working in this field?
My university degree was a sandwich degree whereby you spend your 3rd year working in the industry. For my placement, I went to work for Young’s Seafood in Grimsby as a food development technologist. I spent the year working on chilled ready meals and had the amazing opportunity to develop a range of chilled long-life meals. The job entailed developing new recipes, recipe testing, factory trials, shelf life testing and artwork checking. I went back to university to study for my final year before returning back to Young’s Seafood as a Graduate technologist. I stayed on to work for them for four years before moving back to North Yorkshire to work for Froneri.
What qualifications did you need to do your roles?
My roles at both Young’s and Froneri asked for a food-related degree.
Tell us about the different opportunities and job roles that are available in companies such as Young’s Seafood?
There are so many amazing opportunities within the food industry both food and non-food specific ranging from development, technical, process and factory, marketing and sales. With so many huge brands and the retailers, the number of roles available is unimaginable.
Which other companies have you worked for?
In addition to Young’s Seafood I have also worked for Froneri, based at Leeming Bar (Formerly R&R Ice Cream). I worked as a senior development technologist on both brand and own label for eight years, developing ice cream products for Cadbury’s, Green & Blacks, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and many smaller retailers including foodservice.
What has been your favourite job role and why?
I thoroughly enjoyed both roles. Within Young’s Seafood I worked on savoury development ranging from ready meals, fish fingers, Scampi and Natural fish and had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and also to China. Whereas, within Froneri I worked on ice cream, ranging from tubs, desserts, sticks, cones and ice lollies where I also had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe. I have had some amazing opportunities and worked alongside all levels and departments within the the business. Within both roles, I worked on both brand and own-label retailer products. The diverse range of people you meet and interact with, makes every day different and exciting.
What key skills have you picked up during your career and how have these helped you to run your own business?
The biggest skill has been creativity and innovation. Trying new recipes but aligning them to trends within the market whilst also staying cost effective can be challenging but a key aspect if you want to continually grow and open new avenues within the market.
What inspired you to set up Tiffin Annie and when did you launch the business?
It has always been my ambition to run my own business but I didn’t have the confidence to do it. However, during lockdown I was in a position where I wasn’t working, my Gran sadly passed away and I wanted to do something to raise money for Dementia UK in her memory. I have always made Rocky Road and I have continually had amazing compliments from everyone, therefore I decided to advertise on Facebook a box for Father’s Day, June 2020. I remember creating the Facebook post and walking away from my phone for an hour as I was terrified people wouldn’t want to order. This initial box did really well and from there I continued to make boxes fortnightly. It was then, my husband Ian who created a website for me and I started doing postal boxes throughout the UK too.
Through word of mouth, Facebook, Instagram and the website, the business has continued to grow from strength to strength. The growth has not only come from local sales but postal sales too, lots of people are sending boxes as gifts and as a result, I have continued to expand the range, not only with flavours but the products too. As I set the business up in 2020, I have been unable to attend any local events which is something I would like to do in the future to further expand the business. Currently it is just me working in the business, and occasionally my mum helps me out.
How did you identify a niche in the market?
There are a lots of bakery businesses in the market and also locally that produce some gorgeous-looking products however, most of these make brownies and blondies. I absolutely love making rocky road and I have always received lots of compliments, I even made it as our wedding favours in 2010. I therefore wanted to create a box full of rocky road and tiffin in varying flavours that could be posted throughout the UK. I initially created a mixed treat box fortnightly for people to order and the range has expanded from there. Traditionally rocky road is biscuit, marshmallows and raisins but none of my recipes included raisins and only two products in the range contain marshmallows, which has actually proved to be successful.
How do you approach your marketing, do you find social media is increasingly becoming a popular communication channel?
Currently social media is my biggest form of marketing although I do also have my own website www.tiffinannies.co.uk. I advertise all my products on both facebook and instagram which has given me my initial customer base however, over time this has grown massively through word of mouth and many people gifting boxes throughout the UK during lockdown. I am conscious that I am not currently on TikTok which is probably the fastest growing social media however, as I currently work on my own it is quite difficult to bake and video therefore this is a future opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
The opportunity to make decisions myself, creating new products to grow the business during an ever-changing environment and to also work the hours that work around my young family. I started this business during the Coronavirus pandemic which has meant a lot of time at home with 2 young children. I have therefore worked on evenings creating hundreds of treat boxes.
What is the most challenging aspect of being your own boss?
Saying no, I never like to let anyone down and will do everything I can to meet every order. Also, the admin elements, ensuring I keep track of all expenditure, ordering, stock control and legal aspects.
What tips can you give to our students who would like to run their own business in the future?
Don’t be scared and embrace the opportunity. Starting this business was extremely daunting however, I did my research and started small. Over time, I have grown my customer base and slowly expanded my product range.
What did you enjoy the most about your time at Richmond School and Sixth Form College?
The environment and the friends I made, most of which I am still friends with today.