A chat with BENEO’s newcomers.
Since we’ve all been back at the office more regularly, it seems like new faces keep popping up. A whole bunch of new colleagues started in the past year in our offices in Mannheim and Tienen! But as we have all been working from home most of the time, there was little chance to really get to know our new colleagues. This gave us, Gudrun and Charlotte, the idea to take initiative and meet them for a chat. We were so curious about their experience so far.
We met up with Gigi, Sales Administrator Functional Proteins as well as Robbe, Country Manager for Eastern Europe in our Tienen (Belgium) office. In our German locations we met Alisa, Junior Category Sales Manager in Mannheim and Susanne, Junior Regulatory Affairs Manager in our Offstein plant.
Let´s get to know them a little bit better.
When and in what function did you start at BENEO?
Gigi: One year ago, I stepped into the function of Sales Administrator Functional Proteins.
Robbe: I started as a Country Manager for Eastern Europe at the end of August 2022.
Alisa: I also joined BENEO sales, in the team for Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) being based in Mannheim in April.
Susanne: It seems that I am the most recent in this round, as I started 1st of September in our regulatory affairs department in Offstein, taking care of regulatory affairs for pharma and feed.
How did you get to know BENEO and the vacancy?
Gigi: When I saw the vacancy it looked like the job I did at the time, but in my previous company there was no possibility to get a permanent contract. I did not know BENEO, but it sparked my interest that it was in the food sector. I applied and almost immediately was invited for a first interview. I had two rounds of talks via Teams. The interviews were quite relaxed and open.
Robbe: For me the beginning was a bit different. Gitte (Vaes, Product Manager Functional Fibres at BENEO) is a good friend of mine. She told me about the vacancy, and she thought it could be a good fit for me. I was not really looking for a new challenge at the time but, when seeing the job description, it triggered my interest. The funny thing is my application got rejected at first, as they were looking for someone with sales experience. But I felt like I was a good match for this job, so I did not leave it there. I contacted Wim (Dries, now his manager) directly via LinkedIn and then he called me. Wim agreed that I could be a good candidate, so a live interview followed. I had to give two sales presentations to convince the team of my sales skills. But this was all in a relaxed setting, nothing to be nervous about. During the interview it clicked with the team, and we discovered many of us had the same background in studies, I felt right at home.
Alisa: I also heard about BENEO from a friend of mine who also studied nutrition. I searched for a job as I just graduated from my master studies. Originally, I looked at the Frankfurt area, however I could well imagine living in the region of Mannheim and Heidelberg. Luckily, my partner was willing to move with me to Heidelberg. When my friend told me about BENEO, I checked the website and LinkedIn Channel. As a nutritionist, I found it very interesting what BENEO does. I informed myself about the products and became more and more curious. Unfortunately, at that time there was no vacancy available. So, I signed up for the job alert on the career website. And yes, soon the vacancy in sales came up and I grabbed the opportunity.
Susanne: After my PhD studies in agricultural biology with a focus on farm animals, I was looking for a job and I saw the job posting of BENEO as Junior Regulatory Affairs Manager which triggered my attention. What was interesting? I could well imagine myself in regulatory affairs and I was caught by the fact that the job combines different segments such as animal nutrition and pharma. To me that sounded like an interesting mix and looking thoroughly into ingredients regulation and approval of new ingredients is an area I could well imagine myself in.
Why did you choose BENEO as an employer? What spoke to you?
Susanne: I felt that the atmosphere during the application processes was very welcoming like how the people dealt with each other. Also, I could already get to know my future location in Offstein. And of course, the interesting combination of animal nutrition and pharma. I was very curious as it is my first job in the industry after having worked in academic research for several years.
Gigi: After doing some research, I discovered that BENEO is part of a bigger picture, inside of its mother company Südzucker Group. I like that there are so many aspects to the bigger part. I’m proud to work at a company with an innovative vision that is all about health. People don’t see much about BENEO because we only work B2B, but our ingredients are everywhere. Another great aspect is the flexibility that BENEO offers. We get to work 50% from home, which is great for work-life balance.
Alisa: As a graduate in nutrition, to me the sales aspect was also new, however I could well imagine me in a sales role for products which are convincing to me from a nutritional perspective. During my interviews, I also did the sales pitch (like you Robbe 😊). To me it is important that the products make sense. That you can identify with the products you are selling. What kind of products are they? What effects do they have on your health?
Thinking back on the first days, how was your start like? What made you feel welcome?
Robbe: It was a lot of information, studying and new faces! It just so happened that when I started, there was a Regional Commercial Meeting in Amsterdam, so I got to join immediately. I met many people straight away; everyone was so nice.
Gigi: I enjoyed our Welcome On Board a lot. It was sad that we couldn’t do it face to face but on the other side it worked out nicely, everyone worked so hard to make this happen online. It was super interesting to see the whole BENEO world, all our products, and get a view on the bigger picture. I love seeing how innovative our company is, for example by new product launches as we have now with the faba bean.
Susanne: Everyone was very welcoming and open minded. The colleagues showed me on which topics they are working on. I like the atmosphere in the office; however, I also appreciate to have the flexibility to work from home some time. The combination is great.
Alisa: I agree to this. We have a culture of open doors, and everyone is very helpful and supportive.
Could you describe working at BENEO in three words?
Alisa: Feel good atmosphere, variety in your tasks, great team spirit
Gigi: Divers, multitasking, time management.
Susanne: Lots of variety, appreciative and exciting or challenging. Let´s take exciting.
Robbe: Energising, social, healthy.
A typical workday at BENEO.
Gigi: I take care of everything from the order to the delivery. When an order comes in, I put it into the system and make sure everything is in place for the logistic side. If something goes wrong, the client can contact me, and we look for a solution. When starting this position, I was surprised that I got so much responsibility of the whole process, which is really nice.
Robbe: A typical day at the office means a lot of mailing and calls with Sales Network Partners. I try to help them where I can, as I’m still learning a lot myself. And on the other side I already got to experience some business trips in the past months. I was in Zagreb for 3 days where I met our partners in person, it’s good to have a personal connection with them. They taught me all about their situation and business culture. Then I had a second trip, to the Czech Republic, where we visited a sales network partner at their own lab. We helped them with their implementation of SalesForce, our CRM software. It’s always insightful to see our partners and talk about their developments and way of working. We visited some other clients in the region to get to know them personally and help them with technical issues.
Alisa: My workday is very diverse. Some weeks ago, we were into business planning for the next year and for the upcoming 5 years. I also continuously support my customers and companies in beverages, supplements, baby food, clinical nutrition and sports nutrition in general to develop new healthy products. Additionally, I am also organizing innovation days, where we present and discuss our solutions with customers.
What are some highlights you already experienced?
Gigi: Our trip to the plant! We got to see the whole production process of our gluten ingredients from start to finish. It was an interesting look behind the scenes. I would love to discover more of our production sites because it gives such nice insights in how we operate.
Robbe: For me the highlights are when you score a deal or really achieve a success. And that you get to help your clients every day. It’s very motivating to me that you have a direct impact on the company’s results in that way. The responsibility you get in this job is great. I did not expect to be able to make my own decisions so quickly but there’s a real trust you get here. Of course, there’s always help if I need it and I’m still learning.
Susanne: My trip to Belgium in my third week, I have never been to Belgium before and so I could get to know a new country as well as BENEOs animal nutrition team and a direct regulatory colleague from who I am taking over some tasks and responsibilities. It gave me a new perspective, also to see how the colleagues work together in projects.
Alisa: My highlight was also a trip, as I was invited to our regional workshop in Málaga, Spain in my first month at BENEO. It is great to see that also as a newcomer you are invited to a three-day event to meet your international colleagues and sales network partners in a better way. The atmosphere was amazing. Some of my colleagues I met for the first time in person. Connecting with our sales network partners was also great as well as all the product information we got. You could really feel the good team spirit.
What is the team spirit like?
Alisa: I work in a nice team, and I can always approach my colleagues in case of questions. I also joined some of my colleagues in their customer meetings and contract negotiations in order to learn from them as well.
Robbe: I would describe the team spirit as open, family, helpful and motivating.
What are your ambitions with BENEO on a short term?
Gigi: It’s a big company, which means lots of opportunities. So yes, I do see myself growing further here. But at the moment I don’t know how that will look like for me in the future.
Robbe: I do have ambitions to grow within the company but for now, I’ve just started in this new function, so I’m focussed on doing a great job and achieving results.
Susanne: I would like to get into the topics even more in depth, so that I can work independently and become a good sparring partner to my areas of business.
Alisa: I have many plans to organize innovation days, be proactive and initiate projects and promote innovations with my customers.
What surprized you most at BENEO so far?
Gigi: I enjoy our quarterly BENEO breaks at the white house in Tienen. I didn’t know what to expect at first but every 3 months we are treated to some drinks and a tasty lunch. We get some insights in our business and strategy, but all in a relaxed setting.
Susanne: There is no real surprise. For me experiencing the industry perspective is new, as I worked during all my career in science at a university. However, I like that also in regulatory affairs I can deep dive into topics and become a thorough expert like I did at university.
Alisa: I was surprised that despite BENEO belonging to a larger company, the doors are open, and we know each other well.
Thank you for all those insights. On a personal perspective, what do you like to do in your free time?
Robbe: Running! The longer, the better. Especially when I’m in the mountains.
Alisa: I am also into running. It is a great way to clear my mind and explore the new city and area, as I am new to Heidelberg. I like to run along the river and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
Gigi: I agree with being outside, I also enjoy going on hikes in nature with the dog and my kid. And I love food! Going to restaurants is always fun.
Susanne: I am more into yoga; I do a bit of it in the morning. I love to read and of course horses or animals in general.
What is the one thing that motivates you every morning to come to work?
Susanne: Working with exciting products, that are innovative and getting into challenging topics.
Alisa: To be in touch with my customers and help to make food products healthier.
Gigi: To see the people I work with! I love working from home, but I also look forward to seeing my team a few times a week.
Robbe: I feel the same! There is a good vibe at the office, it’s so nice to talk to each other and everyone is there if you need help with something. So, the flexibility of homeworking is nice, but it’s fun to be at the office. And for my job, I also like that you never know what the day will bring.
Did you already have a taste of our ingredients or products made with them?
Gigi: Me and my son both love Belvita cookies! And of course, we use Tiense suiker at home 😉
Robbe: Currently I’m training for a marathon. Since working here, I started using Palatinose™ during my trainings and competitions and I find it helps me with the long distances. So, you could say I became a real believer in this ingredient. I’ve also tried textured wheat protein as a meat replacer with my roommates and it was pretty good!
Alisa: I also use Palatinose™ for running and I also feel that it is beneficial for longer runs. I am surprised that I’ve never heard about Palatinose™ during my studies. We must work on it, to make it even better known, as I really believe in it.
Susanne: I did not use our products for sports yet, however I made my own muesli with chicory root fibres for a healthy breakfast.
What would be your tip for BENEO to welcome newcomers? What would you improve?
Susanne: Ask a lot of questions, be open, be open to learn
Alisa: Yes, ask all your questions, as the colleagues are very supportive and willing to help at BENEO. Also connect yourself with other newcomers. For BENEO, it could be great to have a community of newcomers where we can exchange on topics.
Robbe: Exactly! And, if you’re working in certain teams, be prepared to get pranked a bit. Especially as a newcomer.
We’re very curious now… What happened?
Robbe: Maybe I’ll tell you guys’ next time.