Our People: George Light, Graduate on our future leaders programme


George Light

Job title:  

I’m a graduate on The Billington Group’s Future Leader Programme.

How long have you been with Billington Group?

I joined the graduate programme back in September 2018 in a technical role at the Billington Foodservice Kitchen. I’m now working in the Development Team at TSC Foods, and really enjoying it!

Describe a typical day in your role: 

During my time at TSC Foods, I’ll be focusing on retail product development. I’m finding the product journey really interesting, there’s so much that goes into getting them from recipe testing to what we see on the shelf, it’s great to be a part of.

Previously I was at English Provender Company (EPC) in Newbury, as a part of the Inventory and Business Improvement teams. I looked after the defrosting of frozen raw material ingredients that are planned for production, ensuring they’re ready for use when required in line with the appropriate defrost time per ingredient and required quantity. This was a satisfying project to be a part of, our work led to a reduction in frozen raw material waste compared to the previous financial year. I also assisted with cost and waste reduction factory trials, analysing cook times and downtime to provide more accurate production plans and tracking business and waste KPIs.

Tying in well with waste reduction, during my time at EPC I worked closely with the food charity FareShare, donating surplus stock that wasn’t going to be sold. Instead, it goes on to be made into meals for people who need them – much better than going to landfill!

Next, I’ll be moving into the commercial team on my placement journey, which I’m really looking forward to.

How did you hear about The Billington Group and their Future Leaders Graduate Programme?

I was in my final year at Sheffield Hallam University and seeking a food graduate role. Mark Traynor and a former Commercial Director came to visit the university and presented the Future Leaders Programme and I was instantly attracted to it. I was interested in working in a variety of roles and gaining as much experience as possible. Being from Sheffield and going to University in the city I’d grown up in, I was keen to experience living elsewhere, the programme seemed perfect! I applied, went through the interview stages and here we are. I am very grateful for getting a job so soon after finishing university, and for the invaluable experience it’s provided me with so far! I look forward to what the future holds for me here at Billington.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working at multiple sites within the Billington Group and developing relationships across the business, it’s been a huge learning experience for me and one I’d recommend to anyone looking to stretch themselves. I’ve enjoyed moving around the country to the different locations. This job has given me the opportunity to live in so many interesting places, moving for the scheme was the first time I’d left the city I grew up in and I’ve made so many friends and connections as a result.

What makes the food/agriculture sector exciting to work in? 

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘foodie’ and wanted to work in the industry from a young age, which motivated me to study Food & Nutrition at university.  Food is a focal point in our lives, not just for sustenance but for enjoyment too. The industry is always changing and progressing with new trends and technologies – it’s really exciting to be a part of.

What do you think the next big thing for food/agriculture will be?

I think we’ll make a big move towards sustainable meat production, with fewer ‘factory farms’ and an increase in higher welfare ones. With the continued rise with vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets, we’ll see less meat generally consumed as well as a reduction in fish farming. Eventually, I think we’ll make a switch to cultivated meat consumption for the environmental benefits once the technology evolves to be able to produce it at a competitive commercial price.

Can you describe Billington Group in three words?

Adaptive, collaborating and nurturing.

What advice would you give to others looking for a role in the industry or on the Graduate Programme?

Firstly, you’ve got to sell yourself at the application and interview stages. The company is investing in you, so make sure you show them what you can offer to the organisation and that you’re passionate about growing with the company long-term.

It’s not all about your academic skills – people skills and life experience are just as important!You’ve got to be up for going out of your comfort zone and moving to a completely new area of the UK, it sounds daunting and maybe off-putting to some, but it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’d recommend joining clubs when you move to each new place, work-life balance is important and it really helps to have a social network both in and out of work.

You’re also probably going to be one of the youngest and least experienced members of the workforce, so it’s important to approach the role eager to soak up as much knowledge from those with industry experience who you’ll be working with on a daily basis. Don’t let your newness or inexperience put you off sharing your thoughts and ideas though, the Group values your contribution, it’s a two way street. They want you to learn, grow and succeed, and they need your help for the business to do the same.

Now a bit more about you….

Coffee or tea? 

Definitely coffee!

Best sandwich filling?

I once had a smoked brisket sandwich in Montreal and it remains the best sandwich I’ve ever had. Smoked brisket on rye bread with Swiss cheese, gherkins and mustard – famous in Montreal and for good reason!

Favourite meal?

Fish, chips & mushy peas eaten on Robin Hood’s Bay seafront, you can’t beat it.

Favourite weird food combinations? 

Watermelon with goat’s cheese – delicious!