A Work Experience Blog by Katie Heckels - NPD trials, Dragon’s Den Visit and Learning about Retorting Technology

NPD trials, Dragon’s Den visits and learning about retorting technology are a few things I’ve done this week.


Having almost completed the first week of work experience with Holmach, I can say with confidence that not only have I thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far, but I have already learnt so much about the food industry.


Visiting a plant-based food manufacturer was first on my agenda where I learnt about Lagarde’s retorting technology in Yorkshire. Sitting in on a meeting, I saw first-hand how Chris Holland explained how the machinery has the potential to transform businesses. Specifically, he discussed their environmental impact and how they are a more sustainable option, not only in terms of energy reduction but also in reducing food waste. Their thermal processes are not only a means by which food can be made safe to eat but they can also be used to extend shelf life. This means that retailers have more time to display items for sale and customers have a longer time to consume them safely so, essentially, more time means less waste. Having been taught about the extreme amount of food that goes to waste I now understand the place retorting technology has in our global efforts to solve food waste issues and to create a more sustainable future.


Being a massive fan of Dragon’s Den myself, it was super exciting to visit Kirsty’s factory in Harrogate on my third day. Kevin Watson, kindly organised a tour and explained in detail the food science behind the processes going on in the factory. I watched as the machines made ready meals from gluten and dairy free lasagnes to cottage pies. It was really cool to be able to understand what was going on and to see how the machinery worked, having learnt about it the day before. Once the lasagne had been put into the packaging and sealed, it continued down the production line into Holmach’s retorts. From here, I waited for it to be pasteurised in the pressure vessel by a convection current, which I learnt means to get rid of bacteria that can cause harm if consumed. As someone that doesn’t come from a particularly scientific background, it was fascinating to learn about the process where food starts as a raw material and ends up in our supermarkets ready to eat.


Joining an NPD trial occupied the majority of my fourth day. I loved having the chance to get involved with the team as I was in charge of chopping up the ingredients, pouring them into the machine as well as programming the recipe in. I watched how the food engineers tried different cooking techniques with the Roboqbo technology and how each problem they faced could be solved by science.


The marketing side of the business is something that Annalie and I have worked closely on in between my visits to factories and trials. Before starting my work experience, I was intrigued about why people might choose to return to the same products, whether that be on a small scale such as food in a supermarket or on a larger one such as Holmach’s technology. Working with Holmach has taught me that it’s because of the creation of a ‘brand.’ Annalie has showed me how a website can be engineered to generate interest and engagement as well as clearly marking places of information. I have also had a look at how social posts such as those Holmach make on LinkedIn or Twitter might create interest from a range of people from different specialties and how tools to schedule posting can be used to get the most tracking. I have learnt how graphic design can be used to grab viewers’ attention on social media and how to use programmes to design my own images. This introduction to marketing has shown me how it can work alongside other aspects of the business, such as the sales department, to generate a customer’s interest and ultimately secure the sale of Holmach’s thermal processing technology.

Despite having another week to go, I already feel as though I have learnt so much about both the business and the food industry under Holmach. I am hugely grateful to Chris Holland for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to re-joining the team at Holmach next week!



Published 21.07.2022

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