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First Grade International – Procurement Manager

FGI Procurement Manager

First Grade International – Procurement Manager

The Client

First Grade International were searching for an experienced Procurement Manager. They are a growing privately owned BRC Global Agents. Brokers standard AA Accredited market leader, founded on importing and supplying high-quality bulk food ingredients to some of the biggest names in the UK and European food and drink industry. Since 2010 they have also been selling dairy-free coconut-based milk, yoghurts, cheese and spreads under their Koko brand into the major retailers, where the role was focussed.

The Role

Koko dairy Free

The Procurement Manager was a brand new role for the business; reporting to the Senior Supply Chain Manager, there was a need to drive a step-change in their approach to procurement. We were seeking an experienced Manager who could develop processes, tools and relationships with their manufacturing partners and ingredients suppliers in the UK and abroad. Some of the relationships were mature and long-standing; others were in the early stages of development.

As well as managing these relationships within the context of contracts and SLAs, the Procurement Manager would work closely with their production partners to ensure the best value in the materials they purchase while also creating and executing a procurement strategy for directly sourced ingredients and packaging.

The Challenge

The team at First Grade were frustrated; after months of searching directly and holding 6 interviews, finally offering the position and then having their offer turned down due to a change in personal circumstance, they were sent back to the start. They had to commence the process once more.

The first challenge was the location. Bromsgrove is not in the best location in the West Midlands as it is south of Birmingham and away from many of the Food Manufacturers, more so found in the East Midlands and towards Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. The second challenge was that the role was briefed on an initial 12-month fixed-term contract. Still, with the caveat, it would be made permanent if the successful candidate could demonstrate how they have added substantial value, driven improvement, consistency, sustainability, and professionalism in their third party relationships and have provided internal cross-functional leadership across their Product Managers, NPD, Technical, and Supply Chain teams about their supplier engagement.

The Approach For A Procurement Manager

I approached the Head of Supply Chain to offer the services of Food Recruit as I could see the role had come to the market again, and we opened initial talks over Zoom. Then I was invited to the offices to present to himself and the UK General Manager.

Search Process
Timeline standard for our retained search process

After discussing the role in-depth, it was clear that the location, the fixed term contract and small talent pool available for such a specific candidate profile would be prohibitive of a contingent search. So it was agreed a methodical and structured approach would be the best solution through a Retained Search.

In working this way, we set clear milestones to complete the assignment—all within my planned 6-week timeframe with a guaranteed result.

Before any search could begin, I needed to speak with all stakeholders in the process. As the Procurement Manager cut across many functions and affected all aspects of the business. I, therefore, needed to ensure everyone was on the same page. That I built a consistent picture of the candidate profile, including hard and soft skills I was searching for

Once this was complete, the search could begin

The Result

Following the proposed timeline, it was transparent at every step where we were. What would happen next, and importantly – when? With weekly steering meetings, I presented my findings. I included the conversations I had, market insights and updates on the project that I gathered as it moved towards the conclusion.

I identified a total of 34 Procurement Managers; 7 were qualified and presented. In addition, 5 had a Zoom interview for the 1st stage. 2 went through to the final face-to-face, and 1 finally offered and accepted.

In line with the schedule, on time and within budget!

Jeremy hawkins testimonial


Mark Southall Testimonial


It was a pleasure to support the team at First Grade International. We were on the same page every step of the way. We saw progress each week and concluded with the hire of a very experienced Procurement Manager. He will help grow the business and take them from strength to strength.

The Retained Search approach is a proven method of headhunting candidates who are not active in the market. Would you rather have the fastest CV in the contingency model or the best CV in retained, which requires a small commitment from you?

Can I help your business find and attract your next critical hire? Get in touch, and let’s discuss your requirements.

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Scott Williams

Scott Williams

I’m an independent owner of Food Recruit - Search & Selection. Passionate about the Food Manufacturing industry having spent time as a Supply Chain Manager and Business Development Manager for two of the UK’s largest meat importers. High Care, Low Care, Chilled and Ambient I have worked across all markets including B2B, Foodservice, Wholesale and Retail.

I fell into recruitment in 2016 to start a Food & Drink desk in a long-standing Engineering Recruitment business in the West Midlands. Progressing on to Business Development Manager covering multiple markets before starting my own agency in September 2020.