Have you ever stopped to wonder what goes into creating the perfect Sauvignon Blanc while sipping a chilled glass of New Zealand white? Or the extraordinary journey that a tea leaf makes from being freshly picked in Kenya to brewing your morning cuppa?
Two graduates from The University of Nottingham have been given the chance to experience it first-hand — by travelling the globe visiting a wide range of food and drink producers as part of a gap year programme run by Sainsbury’s.
The Sainsbury’s Taste the World programme offers around £2,000 towards travelling costs, a 12 month gap year with a guaranteed job at the end of it and plenty of time off in between placements with suppliers to see the sights.
Jonathan Wright, 28, from Solihull, who graduated with a BSc in Food Science and PhD in flavour science, has recently returned from his trip of a lifetime during which he undertook a six-week investigation into tea production in Kenya, picked and packed apples at a New Zealand orchard, worked as a cellarhand for a New Zealand vineyard and analysed peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines at a fruit producer in southern France.
In between placements, he managed to squeeze in an African safari, conservation work in the Australian bush, Christmas dinner on a beach near Perth and turtle spotting in Western Australia.
Competition to get on to the scheme was extremely tough, with Jonathan having to complete a long selection process that involved a range of written tests, interviews and role playing exercises. And when he finally heard he had been successful, he almost passed up the opportunity of a lifetime.
Jonathan said: “My instinct was not to do it. Quite simply it just sounded too good to be true – I just couldn’t get my head round the fact that I was going to be given some money and then allowed to travel around the world for a year working for Sainsbury’s suppliers for six months, the other six months free time to do what I wanted. I thought of how so many people drag themselves out of bed in the morning to work, to sit in a dingy office for nine hours, only to do the very same the next day.
“When I told my Phd supervisor that I had the opportunity to travel around the world for a year, but probably wouldn’t do it, her reaction was “are you mad! You’ve got another 40 years to work and sit in an office”. So the next day I phoned Sainsbury’s back and told them I would like to be the first person to take part in the scheme.”
Another student from The University of Nottingham, Natasha Blok, 22, from Surrey, has recently flown out to begin her Sainsbury’s Taste the World adventure.
Natasha graduated from The University of Nottingham this year with a BSc Hons in Nutrition and Food Science. The Sainsbury’s Taste the World Scheme will not be her first experience of the food industry — she has already worked on an industrial placement with Cadbury Trebor Bassett between years two and three of her degree course, where she worked on developing natural flavourings and colourings for Jelly Babies and Liquorice Allsorts, including the natural blue colouring for the blue Allsorts button.
Her placements will see her visiting Ghana, where she will look at all levels of exotic fruit production including pineapple, mango, coconuts and papayas; Kenya, where she will work on projects involving tea and vegetables; South Australia looking at product specifications at a fish company and Victoria and Perth working for different companies which produce native Australian products, including 5* restaurants in the city and outback aboriginal communities.
In between, she will be travelling in Kenya, the USA and Mexico City. When she returns home at the end of her placement, she will work as a Product Technologist for Sainsbury’s on its graduates scheme.
Natasha said: “To combine my love of food and travel with Sainsbury’s Taste the World is a dream. To come back to my ideal job working with Sainsbury’s in Central London, working on quality and ethics, travelling to suppliers and attending diverse courses to keep my knowledge up to date is more than I could imagine.
“My itinerary is already mouth-wateringly good, but as I have found out from my previous travels, I am most looking forward to the unexpected surprises and experiences I will have along the way, both on placements and in between.
“I personally could not think of a more attractive incentive to choose a company and industry to work in, than to be paid to travel the world for a year before starting work, eating for a living, in central London! It certainly makes Sainsbury’s stand out from the competition and definitely works to attract the best of the best in terms of food science graduates. In the two years Sainsbury’s Taste the World has been running, two out of the three graduates have come from Sutton Bonington, University of Nottingham. I think this definitely highlights the exceptional calibre of teaching, and the reputation Nottingham graduates receive upon leaving.”
Judith Wayte, Industrial Placement Officer, liaises with contacts within the food industry to find suitable placements for students studying on undergraduate and postgraduate courses within the School of Biosciences at The University of Nottingham.
She said: “Industrial placements are an invaluable part of the students’ time at Nottingham. It’s a taste of real life and the chance to get some hands on experience and put into practice the theory they have learned on their course. They always say that it is the best part of their degree.”
Victoria Walton, Sainsbury’s Product Technologist and Taste the World Coordinator, said: “Sainsbury’s is all about fresh and tasty products, but our graduates can’t learn what this means just by working in an office.
“Our Taste The World scheme provides them with the opportunity to experience first hand what it’s like to be a Sainsbury’s supplier. When the graduates join us back in the UK the following year, they will have a wealth of experience to share and bring to their new roles, ultimately making them a broader minded colleague ready to start a fruitful career with Sainsbury’s.”
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.
Jonathan Wright’s blog from his time on the Sainsbury’s Taste the World scheme, including photos that can be downloaded, can be accessed at http://taste-the-world.blog.co.uk/
Natasha Blok’s blog from her current Sainsbury’s Taste the World trip can be accessed at http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/taste_the_world/1/tpod.html