Produce business gives manager food for thought

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am

Allan Ong Siu-lam, operations manager of the fresh food department at city'super

You can't be a food buyer if you don't love food. My first taste of a career with food goes way back to when I had a summer job with a luxury food store in Central. I was at university doing a degree in business administration and it sort of grew from there.

I stayed with that store for eight years, working my way up until I got involved in the operations side of things. During my last two years at that store I became a grocery buyer, sourcing ambient products such as jam. Working there taught me so much about different cultures and about the importance of communication skills.

When I finished, I moved to another store before joining city'super two years ago. The weirdest thing I had to source was at the previous store. It was Easter and we were looking for gimmicks. So I ordered a load of chocolate-covered edible insects; crickets, scorpions, that sort of thing. They sold really well, and actually tasted okay too.

My first job at city'super was buying meat, cheese and ham. The company gave me cheese because I had good experience with it in my previous job. I used what I learned there to change the cheese display at Cit'super and to reduce product duplication. We've also made it easier for our customers to identify our cheeses.

My days are much busier since I became operations manager. There are always lots of e-mails and when I'm not on the computer, I'm in meetings with my boss or buying team, discussing our business strategy or looking at ways to develop the product range and improve profit. Food is a live product, and so much can happen from one day to the next. You never know what you will be dealing with tomorrow.