Emma Taylor – Winner of the British Sandwich & Food to Go Designer of the Year, 2021
Emma Taylor is NPD Controller at Greencore Manton Wood and winner of British and Food to Go Sandwich Designer Award, 2021.
After a long and somewhat latent year, 2021 marks the return of innovation on the Food to Go scene. We caught up with Emma Taylor – NPD Controller at Greencore Manton Wood and winner of this year’s British and Food to Go Sandwich Designer Award
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am Emma Taylor New Product Development (NPD) controller at Greencore. As far back as I can remember I have had a passion for food and always remember cooking with my mum in the summer holidays and presenting made up cookery programs with my brother.
I became more focused on food at school and this made me pursue my Food and Nutrition degree from Sheffield Hallam University. As part of this course we had to do a ‘sandwich’ year in industry which I did with Greencore in the Food to Go Business Unit. It was an amazing opportunity which opened my eyes to how the food industry works, what it’s like to work with major retailers and gave me an insight into product development.
From there, there was no going back - I had fallen in love with NPD, it combined my love of food with my creativity, another thing I got from my family! During my final year Johann Smith our Director of Food offered me a permanent role in her team and just like that I finished my final exam and started back with the Greencore Food to Go team the following Monday.
Fast forward 10 years and I have managed product development teams on a number of customer accounts, including Asda, Morrisons and Coop progressing into my current role of controller looking after our convenience and coffee shop teams. It is genuinely a pleasure to work with the team at Greencore. In my team I am surrounded by creative and inspirational people who make coming to work fun!
What motivated you to enter the Sandwich & FTG Designer Award 2021?
At Greencore we have always been encouraged to take part in the Sammies, as it’s a real opportunity to showcase the talent in our team. This was demonstrated this year with eight Greencore finalists, three of which won their categories. I have entered every year I have been at Greencore and my team would tell you I am very passionate about it!
The reason I enter is because I love a challenge and the brief is so open to interpretation. I find it’s a chance to get creative, push the boundaries of food to go and experiment with flavours.
“Prawn to be wild” – where did the inspiration come from?
For prawn to be wild I tried the Royal Greenland prawns and was transported to holidays, such a fresh and tender flavour with a hint of sweetness. I knew I had to work with them. I had the base idea to put a twist on a classic prawn sandwich. As this had reminded me of travel when trying the ingredient I thought that the twist could be to pair it with Asian flavours and recreate a street food version of the food to go favourite.
I wanted to showcase the prawns but enhance that flavour, I chose to use a yuzu mayo which had that citrus flavour and works so well with prawns, crisp Chinese leaf adding texture and has a slight bitterness which contrasts with the sweet prawns. I wanted a creaminess running through the product so used fresh avocado, again a classic pairing with prawn. I wanted to use a more up to date and on trend ‘carrier’ so I looked at using a soft and fluffy bao bun.
Finally I wanted to bring more Asian influence into the flavouring, so I used small amounts of grated aromatic ginger, hot red chilli and fresh fragrant coriander, although these are punchy flavours I used them sparingly to ensure they didn’t overpower the prawns. I finished the product off with a drizzle of siracha mayonnaise and a sprinkling of togarashi.
I always like to give my Sammies entries a fun name, I always enjoy reading these on menus and think it gives a product a little of the designers personality and so prawn to be wild was born.
About being crowned winner of this year’s Sandwich & FTG Designer Competition.
I feel so honoured to have been crowned the winner this year, to be honest it still doesn’t feel real. I really do love taking part in these awards and have done so for the past decade, always hoping to win but never fully believing it could happen. I was so shocked hearing the announcement but truly grateful! For me it means that if you keep trying and working on innovation great things can happen. I will remember this for the rest of my life.
Looking into the future of Sandwich & FTG offering
Looking into the future of food to go is a very different view to pre-covid, there are some similarities which have been fast tracked, such as the use of technology and consumers wanting product 24/7, brought to them for ultimate convenience.
As well as healing the planet, more focus on our carbon footprint and how the food we eat impacts on this, reducing food waste and making vegetables the hero. Whereas other areas are different now, health has become a key focus area for consumers as a result of the pandemic.
We are more conscious of the food we eat and how it impacts on our health, I think there will be more demand for functional foods, a bigger awareness around mental health and how the foods we eat can support this, as well as other trending health areas such as digestive health.
On the flip slide the past year has made consumers see that’s its okay to treat yourself, to take the little wins and be more mindful about this, so I think in contrast there will also be demand for indulgent treats and a push to support local products. We are already starting to see some of these but that is what I believe the future looks like in a nutshell, not what we expected but exciting nevertheless!
If you were to have the same FTG/Sandwich lunch every day for a year, what would it be?
It would be my worst nightmare! I love variety and trying new flavours combinations, so eating the same lunch for a year would be hard!
With this in mind, I would say that for me it would have to be a grazing board. These have been all over social media, highly visual and lots of variety. They can be shareable or paired back to an individual portion. I think these are the future of platters in food to go and give consumers a personalised treat. Ideal for a range of occasions from celebrations with friends to a special Friday treat.