A Day in the Life: Julian Lucas, marketing manager, Plamil Foods

After a strong stint of service with UK vegan pioneering business, Plamil Foods, sales and marketing manager Julian Lucas is set for retirement. Neill Barston quizzes him on his eventful career

Q: You have been involved with marketing at Plamil for a number of years, what’s been the most memorable aspect?
A: When I started at Plamil, vegan products were shunned by many retailers. I remember buyers tasting our products and saying how lovely they were only to then say: “but we don’t do vegan!” The response has certainly change and vegan is now the buzzword with so many major brands wanting to include plant-based options. It has been wonderful working in a company that puts ethics and the need to do things as sustainably as possible to the forefront of all they do. Sadly, there are companies that still feel the need to drive the price of cocoa down resulting in bonded and child slave labour on farms.

Q: How has the industry changed most in your involvement with the confectionery sector?
A: It is quite noticeable that more companies are now looking at the environmental impact of the items they sell, the ingredients, packaging and of course the lives of the people involved in all aspects of production. Of course, some are just playing lip service but improvements are certainly being made. (Plamil’s MD Adrian Ling at the company’s Kent HQ pictured below).

Q: How does it compare to your previous career experiences at the Kent Messenger newspaper series?
A: There are many similarities. When I was at the Kent Messenger Group I was involved in the launch of many titles and my last few years with the company were spent running the French office. Whilst there I started an onboard newspaper for Eurotunnel called Le Shuttle Express. While I have been at Plamil, we have introduced many new products which includes a Plamil So free range of retail products and many new Seasonal items. In recent times we have created new flavours and introduced flow wrapped paper packaging and by doing so, eliminating the need for plastic and foil.

Q: In terms of the rising vegan market, what have been the biggest challenges in growing the segment, and indeed Plamil’s own brands?
A: The growth of the veganism has been very good for Plamil. It is also wonderful to realise that as we are the original vegan company, the vegan market is around because of the dedication of our founders. One slight irritation is that I believe there are several products incorrectly labelled as vegan being sold to consumers by other companies. Vegan products should exclude, as far as is possible and practicable all forms of exploitation of animals. Many chocolate products sold as vegan are unnecessarily contaminated with milk during manufacture. As it is possible to produce dairy free chocolate, no vegan chocolate should contain milk. (Julian exhibit’s the company’s So Free brand at ISM).

Q: Outside of work, what has mattered most to you?

A: My family of course. However, my degree is in Fine Art. Although I have loved my job, I am looking forward to having more time to devote to drawing, painting and sculpting. I have enjoyed living on the Kent coast but in my retirement I want to spend a lot more time close to the Mediterranean.

Q: What’s your next chapter following the confectionery sector?
A: I think I will always remember the lovely people I have worked with at Plamil as well as the other wonderful characters I have enjoyed spending time with both in this country and around Europe. Also, I have always been interested in history. It has been fascinating to learn about the story of Plamil from the early days when it was called Plantmilk Society back in the 1950s. It has been great to discover
that the company founders helped create the Vegan Society.

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