Paige Bonnici – Brand Manager (Dairy) @ Bega Cheese

1. Before we dive into your role at Bega Cheese, what has your career journey looked like so far?

I initially joined Bega Cheese Limited (Bega) as the Customer Service Lead in 2017 whilst simultaneously studying marketing. I was fortunate enough to have been given a chance to kick off my marketing career as the Assistant Brand Manager (ABM) for the Foodservice portfolio at Bega after a year of working in Customer Service. 

From there, I progressed through several marketing roles such as the Assistant Brand Manager for VEGEMITE, where I was then promoted to Brand Manager across the Sweet Spreads portfolio looking after B honey and more recently, moving into the Brand Manager role for the Dairy portfolio.

It has been such an incredible journey over the past few years, with each new role came further knowledge and experience. It is incredible how different each role has been, yet still sharing the same foundations. I look back over the years and think “Wow, I have learnt so much in such a short period of time,” and that is all thanks to my peers!

2. Transitioning into work, what the heck does a Brand Manager – Dairy @ Bega Cheese do?

What is Bega Cheese?

I think most Australians would know of Bega Cheese Limited. Bega is Australia’s largest Australian owned dairy and food company that was formed in 1899. It produces cheese, infant formula, spreads such as VEGEMITE, Simply Nuts, Bega Peanut Butter and B honey and is now also home to some of Australia’s other much-loved brands such as Dare Iced Coffee, Big M, Dairy Farmers, Zooper Dooper and more!

How is the brand function structured?

Bega Cheese is functionally separated into business units including Bega Foods and Bega Dairy and Drinks. 

Within these business units there are Marketing teams whose functions are split by segments within product categories. For example, we have an overall Spreads team however it is split by segment, you have the VEGEMITE team, the NUTS team (Bega Peanut Butter & Simply Nuts) and the Sweet Spreads team, there is also a Dairy team and a digital team which also follow this segmentation.

Within each segmented team, there are roles that vary from Assistant Brand Manager to Marketing Managers. For example, there is an ABM, Brand Manager, and a Senior Brand Manager on VEGEMITE with an overarching Marketing Manager for Spreads. Each role is there to assist with career growth opportunities within the marketing team.

What does your role entail?

As a Brand Manager at Bega, my role is responsible for the implementation of the brand/range strategy, activation of the brand and reviewing business opportunities to drive growth. We are basically custodians of the brands that we look after.

Whilst we look after strategy, activation and comms, we are also responsible for driving brand market share, revenue, profit margins, end to end management of product changes and new product launches and giving the business an outlook of a 5-year horizon of where we aim to take the brand. 

3. What’s an example of a new product that you’ve worked on and what was your role in bringing it to life?

Product name: VEGEMITE Squeezy

What was it?

One of the biggest highlights of my career to date is being the project owner on VEGEMITE Squeezy, where we developed the biggest innovation in VEGEMITE since the inception of VEGEMITE!

One of the insights that we were seeing was that VEGEMITE was predominately being used as a breakfast spread, however it is actually great in other products as it has this incredible umami flavour. 

We needed to develop a format that was convenient for consumers to use in everyday cooking occasions.

What was your role?

As the project lead, we conducted market research and formed a brief of what we wanted the product to look like in an upside down squeeze format.I formed a project team, and it then became a labour of love.

After 13 months, 8 plant trials, 2 pilot trials, over 100 project meetings, numerous meetings on launch activation plans to ensure we could give it the best launch we possibly could and of course, on top of all of that, be conscious of COVID uncertainties and risks, we delivered VEGEMITE’s first innovation since VEGEMITE was born. Keeping the same great VEGEMITE taste that consumers know and love, but easier and squeezier!

4. What do the entry level pathways for aspiring FMCG Brand Managers look like?

I would say to not let limited experience scare you. I was in customer service (whilst studying marketing) before I applied for my first marketing role. It was an internal role however I was lucky enough to have been given a chance given my existing reputation at Bega.

Typically, companies would be looking for people with some sort of experience in marketing or a degree in marketing however don’t let that stop you.

There are a number of entry level roles you can apply for to kick off your career such as a Marketing Coordinator, Assistant Brand Manager or even by applying for a graduate program. You can even try and obtain some work experience or commence an internship to learn the ropes.  

You can use your work experience or internship as talking points for your interviews, if you don’t have answers for particular questions around marketing, then try and relate them to other roles you have worked in. Essentially, if it is a beginner role, companies want to understand your behaviour and how you handle situations. As they say, 70% is learnt on the job!

5. What’s one thing you recommend an aspiring FMCG Brand Manager do right now?

There are a couple of actionable steps I can think of for an aspiring FMCG brand manager.

The first step is to put yourself out there. Make it known that you want to be in this industry, talk about why you want to be in it. It shows people how eager you are to be a part of the industry and that eagerness really sticks with people and they will have you top of mind.

Second step is to be willing to learn. One of the reasons for why I have been promoted in my roles is because I show a genuine interest and eagerness to learn new things and grow within my roles. I always want to be better and strive for more. Learning is something you can’t teach someone, it has to come from within.  

Third step is to always put your best foot forward. If you say you are going to do something, do it. When the time comes for applying for a role, do your research on the company, ensure that you are fully prepared for any interview and lastly, give any opportunity that comes your way a red-hot crack, it shows that you are in it, that you mean business.

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