I joined Nutricia 15 years ago. I've always been interested in nutrition, food and diet, and that’s what drew me to Nutricia. The fascination for me was the idea of working on managing disease through diet. I started in a product development role in the research and development team at the Liverpool factory. Since then, I've worked in project management within different functions, but still within the same nutrition business, within specialised nutrition.
It takes it to another level when the role is in disease management and with patients. The feedback you get is fascinating. It feels valuable and rewarding. Some of the projects we work on can take years to come to fruition - from gaining funding to researching the products to then making them, adhering to strict regulations and then finally taking the products to market. I worked on one product project for over 10 years and even now I’m in the process of registering it in other countries. As you can imagine, different countries have bespoke controls and measures which can be challenging. When we hear something is making a difference in patients’ lives it makes it all worthwhile.
Working at the Liverpool site, so many of us have been here a long time and we take real ownership of the projects we work on. Here we work on powdered products predominantly for the allergy and metabolics portfolio. The reason it's special is that it's the only factory in the Danone network which is cow's milk protein free. It allows products to be produced to this extremely high standard of the cow's milk protein free claim. I don't think there are any other manufacturers able to do that.
Some of the service products are for extremely rare diseases where there may only be a handful of patients globally. It’s something we take great pride in, that a healthcare professional can approach us when they have a patient with a very rare disease diagnosed, and they can actually request almost a bespoke recipe to treat the patient.
We’ve always maintained a great relationship with healthcare professionals as well as patients. Getting feedback from them is a real highlight of the job. Years ago a baby was born in Germany and diagnosed with a really rare metabolic disorder. The healthcare professional asked if we could make a particular recipe without certain amino acids. The baby couldn’t eat anything else, so within a few days we had created what the baby needed and someone actually flew it out to Germany as it was the quickest way to get it there. It was such a fantastic thing to be able to do, knowing that this child had no other option. It’s amazing that something like that can still happen in a global business like Nutricia.
We had another patient from the USA - he’s in his 20s now - who has such complex allergies he's never been able to move away from a specific product we manufacture. The only recipe he can tolerate is one which is now discontinued but we still make a batch, just for him - I've just had to work on upgrading it. That has to be done very carefully with his family and healthcare professionals in the US. You can barely imagine it, but all he's ever consumed in his life is this product. The recipe we make for him is actually referred to by his name.
I am so proud of the team I work with. The dedication of my colleagues makes it a really great working environment, the projects are challenging but we've got such great people working on them. One of the reasons I've worked here for so long is because of the people I work with. We know that if we don't do the work then a product might have to come off the market, potentially leaving people without a clear product to transition to - and we never want to put anyone in that situation.
It’s important we help raise awareness of allergies to support healthcare professionals and those people living with conditions that can severely impact their lives. Sometimes people don't realise how serious some of these things can be for patients. At Nutricia we provide products which are safe and can be trusted. We raise awareness, we campaign, and we look for the treatments of the future. There's an increasing interest in not just removing the allergen from the diet but looking at how you can support patients through nutritional routes to improve tolerance. This is where the pre and probiotics come in, the potential to actually reduce the risk of future allergies and help people outgrow allergies such as cow's milk allergy. And it's really an emerging area.
The key thing is to provide the support and the range of products for the whole journey. As long as our products are needed we will continue to make, improve and develop them for our healthcare professionals, partners and patients.