Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Sylvia Wadding, Technical Director
Sylvia Wadding is the woman who created Enlitened, a service which analyses the calorie count of menus for restaurants.
Simon Harris is our current minister for health and he has promised/ threatened to publish legislation that forces restaurants to calculate and declare the calories in their menu. And guess what, Sylvia Wadding has the solution! She created Enlitened, a service which analyses the calorie count of menus for restaurants.
Most chefs around me are not happy at all with having to spend time trying to calculate calories but if push comes to shove, Sylvia Wadding will be in a great place to help them.
I’m talking to women in the food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
I graduated with a BSC in Food Science & Technology from DIT in 2007. I always had a love of food, from my earliest memories of baking with my mother to always reading the back of packs, and wanting to find out more about the ingredients, and their function in food and more about the nutritional makeup. I love food! Cooking it, eating it, talking about it, working with the producers, it is such an integral part of all our cultures, apart from it being necessary to survive. From DIT I worked in the food industry for 12 years in Quality/Food Safety & Compliance roles, and New Product Development. where I worked to implement and control quality standards, create new products, and worked on nutritional improvement projects. I saw there was a need for my expertise to help small businesses in the areas of food safety and calorie and nutritional labelling, as they were lacking the resources that larger businesses have in house. Last year I officially set up my business ‘Enlitened’ www.enlitened.ie
How does your career fulfil you?
I am passionate about helping businesses reach their full potential, whether this is through ensuring they are covered and compliant in all areas of food safety, or helping them grow their sales by adding value to their menus through smart nutritional and calorie labelling. I also love helping businesses make nutritional improvements to their current offerings. Making these small changes and tweaks is something I was involved with in my food manufacturing days. Nutritional labelling can flag when a dish/product is high fats, salts or sugars, and lends the opportunity to make nutritional improvements. This is something that is crucial to tackling Ireland obesity problem (Ireland is on track to be the most obese nation in Europe by 2030 if current trends continue). Nutritional and calorie labelling can empower the consumer to make an informed decision. Enlitened helps the consumer make smarter food choices.
I work with artisan producers, restaurants, take-aways and butchers to name a few. I have worked with some incredibility resourceful, creative, and hardworking people and their energy and passion can be truly inspiring. As the saying goes, ‘If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life’
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Sylvia Wadding?
Within the next 3 years Enlitened will be the leading provider of calorie and nutritional information labelling for menus countrywide. So whether you are in a chipper in Cork or a deli in Donegal, and you see the Enlitened brand, you know the information has being carried out by an independent professional who is a leader in their field. A brand you know and trust. I also want to continue growing the Food Safety Training side of the business, this is something that is essential for all business. I love being able to bring clarity to my learners, and give them the tools they need to ensure they are providing safe food to their customers.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry?
To quote Stephan Murtagh – Women outsell men by 11% every time. (I met Stephan, who runs some masterclasses through the Thrive course I am attending at the Entrepreneurs Academy). I think women need to start looking at the strengths they have over men. What can they bring to the table, what is their superpower? Let’s start using being a woman in the food industry, as a positive, an opportunity to leverage our position in the industry. Sometimes we don’t put ourselves forward as much as men do. Men can generally be more confident, and more likely to be risk-takers If a man sees a job advertised and he has 3 out of the 10 requirements, he will go ahead and apply for the job, if a woman sees the same job advertised and has 8 out of the 10 requirements, she won’t apply for the job as she thinks she does not have all the requirements for the role. Women have a tendency to set the bar so high for themselves, and that everything has to be absolutely perfect before they will apply for that job, or go for that promotion. I must admit – I was one of those women! But through setting up my business, I found it was time to change for the better if I was going to make a success of my business. I have completely stepped out of my comfort zone, and am seeking out and pursuing every opportunity that comes my way. I am growing so much as an individual, and meeting some amazing like-minded people along the way. Women are definitely becoming more visible, but there is a bit to go yet.
Tell us of one woman in the food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
FoodCloud connects businesses with surplus food to charities. It was founded by Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O ‘Brien. Their business has delivered the equivalent of 2.3 million meals to over 250 charities in one year alone. These girls have created a very successful business that gives so much to local communities. One in eight people in Ireland is living in food poverty, yet one million tonnes of food is still wasted each year. The girls have created an amazing business to help close in on this gap. I really do hate food waste and this is such a great concept.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry?
In my career before I set up Enlitened, it was the women who dramatically outnumbered the men in Food Safety & New Product Development both junior and senior roles. Working now as a food consultant, there are quite a number of women in my area of expertise. Food science attracts more females, and that’s what I am seeing in my area of work.. Some of the top positions in my industry are held by women. In Bord Bia the CEO is Tara McCarty and in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, CEO is Pamela Byrne. It is so uplifting to see women in these leadership roles. These and so many other women in top positions are great advocates to other women in business.
The interviews you are doing, Katia, ‘Women in Irish Food’ is a great way to give women exposure. Local female business owners giving talks about their journey and successes to secondary schools would also be a good angle to showgirls the opportunities that await them.
The Entrepreneurs Academy help me and other entrepreneurs work on areas of leadership, creativity and having a growth mindset. Working on these core attributes can help women to become more visible and get ahead of the game.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Making my first million!! Ha-ha, haven’t quite reached that level just yet! I would say my proudest moment was securing my first big contract, and seeing how my skills helped their business to grow and generate more sales. It re-iterated the value I add to food businesses.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Have confidence, and believe in yourself, if you don’t know one else will. Don’t care what other people think of you. One of my favourite sayings ‘you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, if you were you would be a mug’
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Technical ability to analyse menus for nutritional information. Keep up to date on legislation and ensure you have a good understanding.
Attention to detail is critical.
Resilience – learning how to overcome challenges and setbacks, and become stronger.
Relationship building – interacting and connecting with clients is so important. You need to be able to listen and understanding your clients business and needs.
What is your go to comfort food when you’re under the weather?
If I’m sick and have no appetite it would be jelly and ice-cream. Its what my mam always gave me and my siblings when we were sick, and it always made me feel better 😊. If I just have a bit of a cold, then I love a beef stew with mashed potatoes mmmm…….