In the hot seat

Emma Walls, Commercial Director, Glenisk

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

I’m the commercial director at Glenisk, which means I head up the division responsible for sales, marketing, insight and innovation, corporate and social responsibility and customer care. That’s the HR bit but effectively my job is about keeping Glenisk customers happy and growing their number. I’m married to Aidan and mum to Bill (12) and Connie (10).

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?

Many variations of tasting, talking, watching and listening. I try to spend as little time as possible in meetings and as much time as possible at the supermarket shelf or speaking with customers, where I always learn something new. My time is split mostly between working with my brilliant colleagues in sales and marketing but inevitably some part of my day will be spent thinking about new product development.  We are always looking ahead.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

We’ve hit some milestones and the past year has had many highlights. Three of note are reaching #1 in Yogurt in ROI; partnering with Irish Rugby as the Official Yogurt of Irish Rugby and with Rory Best to create training camps for boys and girls in Belfast and Dublin; and finally, the very successful launch of our new GO20 High Protein Yogurt & Granola Pots.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Since I spend quite a bit of time in the yogurt aisles of supermarkets, it is always a thrill to witness a customer place one of our products in their basket. This simple act of faith has ripples far and wide, sustaining as it does, 50 small family farms across the island of Ireland, 75 jobs and counting, and a business mission devoted to producing healthy food, naturally. We never take our customers for granted.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?

The same as every business – differentiating our brand, reaching overburdened consumers across diverse and constantly-changing platforms, with fewer resources than I’d ideally like. But I’m much more interested in the opportunities that we face. More than ever, customers are awake to the importance of real food produced by people who care about our health, our kids, our planet, our farmers, the welfare of our animals – and our future. Some of our customers are hyper-focused on health in terms of protein, sugars and fat; others want to indulge. But in either case, they are tired of eating rubbish. They want real food, free from artificial nasties, that tastes good and is produced locally. It’s not easy to do but it is simple.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

Tell the truth. Take risks. Own your mistakes. Be accountable.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GRIPE?

I find it so hard to fathom that we import more than 75% of our yogurts to what I know is the best dairy-producing island in the world. On both a personal and professional level, I despair at how little is being done by the food industry to address the causes of childhood obesity. As food manufacturers, we have a responsibility to make it easier for parents to make healthy choices for their kids. Glenisk is proof that it can be done.

WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?

Wings and time travel would be excellent. Failing that, some kind of Marie Kondo-like ability to take pleasure from housekeeping. But preferably the wings.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS/AMBITIONS?

To bring Glenisk to a wider audience. There is a huge appetite across Europe and the Middle East for fresh and organic dairy products from farms across the island of Ireland.

WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?

Keira Ball, aged 9 from Devon, who donated her heart to Max Johnson, also 9, following her death in a car accident. A new law based around presumed consent for organ donation comes into effect next year in England and will be named for Keira and Max. The odds are already so heavily stacked against successful outcomes, we need a much, much larger pool of donors.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?

Anywhere by the sea. I have good memories of Portstewart from my student days at UU.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?

Eggs. After milk, they are nature’s most perfect food.

HOW DO YOU RELAX?

Usually by being asleep. Otherwise, with a full house replete with good food, good wine and good people.

 

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