Thomas Jardine & Co & Newcastle University

In Case Studies, Students by Joanne Brayson

Researcher: Natasha Auch
Newcastle University
Thomas Jardine & Co

Project overview:

This is Cumbria is a collective of dynamic Cumbrian producers and craftspeople with a passion for producing fine goods inspired by the breath-taking landscape of the county. Its aim is to showcase the very best food, drink and produce from across Cumbria to thousands of key buyers at trade events with a ‘big impact’ destination trade pavilion, with the main focus being the Farm Shop & Deli Show.
Thomas Jardine & Co, a fifth-generation family-run business management consultancy, with a passion for supporting and championing small and medium-sized businesses in the region, has been heavily involved in the formation of This is Cumbria.
The company wanted to better understand the challenges faced by the stakeholders involved in the project; to identify the benefits and potential opportunities and to help develop a sustainable business model that would support the food and drink industry in and around Cumbria.
About the placement

Natasha Auch, an Agriculture & Economics PhD student at Newcastle University has ambitions to work in the food industry after completing her PhD and was keen to complete a business placement to gain essential work experience.
As a student of the Northern Ireland and North of England Doctoral Training Partnership, Natasha was eligible to apply for a three months ‘Innovation Placement’ funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund.

Natasha sought out the placement herself. After researching online for SMEs across Europe in the food and agriculture industry, she found and contacted Thomas Jardine & Co.
“They seemed like an interesting company as they have food retail industry experience and now do consultancy for this sector. The company owners were friendly and approachable, they suggested some interesting project ideas. The project we agreed on really intrigued me as it seemed to build upon the research skills I have gained on my PhD.”

Natasha located and then connected with a range of stakeholders for her project with the company. Using various research methods and tools, she sought to identify: the ‘pains and gains’ for the businesses involved, which could be solved or realised by the project; the solutions that the business sponsors of the project would like to see realised; and the main stakeholders that This is Cumbria should collaborate with to achieve the overall aims of the business sponsors.

“Natasha fitted in immediately with our Guilders and food producers from This is Cumbria. She refreshed our enthusiasm for the food sector, listening to our ideas and took a keen interest in the business and what we wanted to achieve. It was great working with a skilled researcher like Natasha and to develop new ideas for the business.” Keith Jackson, Thomas Jardine & Co

Over the course of the three-month placement, Natasha was able to attend multiple events, meeting with a range of food producers which allowed her to see first-hand what the food and retail sector looks like and how it operates, whilst developing great connections for her professional network.
The placement concluded just after the UK entered its first national lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result many live events across the UK were cancelled, including the 2020 Farm Shop & Deli Show on which the placement had focussed heavily. Nevertheless, Thomas Jardine & Co were still able use the ideas generated to help local food producers, including offering active business support in partnership with Be the Business, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

Natasha is positive about the professional skills she gained through the internship
“The indirect benefits I didn’t expect were the most valuable. The managers encouraged me to meet different types of stakeholders – these contacts will be useful in the future to understand more about the sector or for future collaboration/projects.”

Natasha’s Supervisor, Dr Luca Panzone said

"It is important to encourage students to get involved with the placement opportunities offered by the NINE DTP. Finding a placement that aligns with the research interests of the students allows them to learn how the private sector puts their skills into practice, and to see how their research has practical applications. Moreover, the gain skills and experience that are beneficial to both her future career as well as her doctoral studies."