— by Ronel Suthers, MND Student, University of Wollongong

Rewind nine months and it’s time to make friends with the person charged with the onerous task of placing the pack of students into the workplace and my priority is to make it very clear that should any positions arise in Food Industry, then I’m your girl and I’m prepared for a fight!

Luck was on my side and to the best of my knowledge the one and only true such placement was offered my way. Surely, I wasn’t the only student dietitian keen to get on the inside and see what it’s like to work in “Big Food”?

Here’s a summary of my key observations and personal takeaways from a very enjoyable, albeit brief, six weeks at Kellogg’s:

1. The high level of expertise: Day one and it’s introduction time. My first surprise is that collectively the nutrition team has over 100 years of nutrition experience. There are three PhD-wielding dietitians (one of whom is also a GP) and two regulatory managers who have both been with Kellogg over 25 years.

2. The high regard: Probably my most surprising discovery was how highly respected and integral the dietitians are within the business. Right up to the MD of the company, the Nutrition team are integral stakeholders when it comes to critical decision making, and their opinion must always be consulted.

3. Credibility is everything: Industry dietitians must remain credible and evidence-based as they navigate the commercial environment and keep nutrition high on the agenda. Compromise extends beyond excellent negotiation and communication skills to honed influencing skills based on the evidence, and every step in the right direction is considered a win.

4. Utmost attention to detail: The incumbent dietitians at Kellogg’s operate under the watchful eye of regulatory authorities and certainly have no lesser responsibility and/or professional accountability to their patients [in this case their all-important consumers] than an equally qualified practicing clinical dietitian. All on-pack or other advertising is carefully scrutinised to minimise corporate risk, protect consumers and avoid even the slightest misrepresentation of products or associated health claims.

5. At the Public Health coalface: After completing this placement, I felt Food Industry Dietitians may have been overshadowed in the role they play and strong influence they have on public health, policies and evolution of nutrition as presented on the shelves in our supermarkets. I truly believe the opportunities for graduate dietitians to develop their craft and make a difference on a large scale are very much within reach in this sector.

For now, “destination dietitian” for this graduate Master of Nutrition and Dietetics may be the less-travelled small country lane leading to Food Industry or a highway into Health Care, but my brief time with Kellogg’s has certainly provided me with a road map showing both routes can lead to a rewarding career with no lessor professional responsibility, accountability and importantly, ethos. I’m looking forward to the next junction!

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