Ask the Experts with...

Helen Lyons - Quality Food Awards

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in your current role?

I have been working in the Retail Portfolio for almost 15 years now, and as is often the case, I came upon my career quite by accident. I started my working life in a bank, then when my children were small I worked part time in an opticians. One of our regular clients who ran a B2B publishing company thought I was good at sales and offered me my first job in publishing ; running a magazine for the footwear industry, which I enjoyed immensely. I love working in the food and drink industry, the fast moving pace of it means there is never time to be bored.


What trends have you seen emerge in your sector in the last six months?

Retailing is going through a period of rapid and sustained change; the unstoppable rise and rise of the discount chains, and growth in convenience store formats and on line shopping have massive implications for the supply base. There is an ever increasing focus on health, especially from supermarkets who continue to develop and extend their ranges targeting this growing sector. New the Quality Food Awards portfolio this year is a set of dedicated 'Better For You QFAs', which set out recognise the huge efforts being made by retailers and manufacturers to deliver food and drink which address specific consumer needs such as dairy-free and reduced calorie.

What's the best thing about your job?

I consider myself very lucky to be at the helm of such an amazing brand which has so much respect within the industry. When an event all goes to plan; it's just the best feeling seeing just what winning a Quality Food Award means to people; for some smaller businesses it can be a game changer, and for product managers career highlight. The buzz people get from winning a Q is not to be underestimated, It's always brilliant to hear peoples tales of success following an awards win.

What's single golden piece of advice would you offer to brands entering any trade awards, and Cafe Qs in particular?

Budgets are tight and there is a multitude of food awards - so why should you enter The Café Quality Food Awards? Because, if you win, or if you are shortlisted, commended or highly commended you have independent confirmation that you have a truly outstanding product, which has been critically evaluated by our highly experienced judges. I know that it is tempting to send us your newest products – these are the ones you most want to benefit from the publicity generated by winning a Q – but, if you have a fabulous product in your range that is not brand new, we still want to try it. Doing something new is important, but doing something fantastic even more so. Simple things, done beautifully well always impress our discerning judging panel!

and finally, after judging is all done and the awards have been handed out, where and how do you love to relax?

Time with my husband and family is always top of my agenda but cycling is my favourite way to relax, I get all my best thinking done when I'm riding through the Kent countryside where I live; some of my most creative ideas have come from my cycle rides – The Café Quality Food Awards being one of them.

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