Word of mouth: Sybil Kapoor meets the woman responsible for ceps in the supermarket
Saturday 05 September 1998
She cut her teeth on them as the company's buyer of pizzas and pork pies. An unlikely start for someone who has successfully introduced everything from tamarind paste to Charbonnel & Walker chocolate drink to the stores. "I was dispatched to the factory to design a new pizza. I had them sauteing fresh mushrooms, experimenting with new doughs, trying to create a recipe that was closer to a real Neapolitan pizza. It was fantastic, knowing that people were actually eating what I had designed."
Brigette Hardy is bursting with ideas, even if she's not very fond of pork pies. "I like to get my hands dirty, too much of being a buyer is sitting behind a desk, moving stock from depot to store and acting as a commodity broker. It is an amazing feeling, knowing you can change what goes into a pork pie, reducing the jelly, making better pastry." She switched to product development, where she was eventually commissioned by Bob Cooper, trading director of Sainsbury's, to set up its Special Selection. This began as a small group of "gourmet foods" - Cipriani pasta, dried ceps and such like.
Two years ago, she was given free reign to rampage across departments and challenge their preconceptions of their products. As she says: "How can they judge a Cajun ready-made meal if they have never eaten in New Orleans?" She immediately organised what she calls Search and Reapply trips, where she whisks up to 20 buyers and development chefs off on a whistle-stop tour of Italy, America or Australia and the Far East. These are not for the faint-hearted. Mike du Sautoy, category manager for ice cream and desserts, has experienced the Hardy phenomenon at first hand. "She organises everything. We visited 100 supermarkets and 30 restaurants in 12 days on our last trip to the States. Food is Brigette's passion and work is her play. She's so enthusiastic she could probably sell lawn mowers in winter if she wanted."
As part of a trip, Brigette ensures they visit about three restaurants a night for dinner. Notes are taken by a development chef, while photographs are discreetly snapped. "I will smuggle out a pudding in my handbag and photograph it on the pavement if I think that the restaurant is going to be upset," she remarks. "I just love the fact that I can buy olive oil with oranges from Alice Waters in San Francisco and laksa paste from Singapore, and sell it to millions of people. What was rare in Fortnum's 15 years ago is now commonplace." With the push of a computer button, she can see what is selling where and quickly respond. So if you like the idea of buying banana flowers at Sainsbury's, you'd better get out there and buy them Sainsbury's extended Special Selection will be introduced into a number of stores on 7 September.
Life & Style blogs
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
From Topshop to Burberry, London Fashion Week spring/summer 2015: Distraction could not disguise a distinct lack of focus
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No new blood and no fresh ideas at Milan Fashion Week: How do you solve a problem like Milano?
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 3 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 4 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...
£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: The Job An inner city Birmingham sc...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...