Jon Weber is a 2016 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program and worked for two and a half years as a Research and Sensory Assistant with R&I’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. For the past two years Jon has worked as the National Sales Manager/Partner with Wholly Veggie!, a Toronto-based company that makes vegan and vegetarian food products.
Tell us a little about where you work:
Wholly Veggie is on a mission to get vegetables on peoples’ plates. Our goal is to provide convenient and easy ways for consumers to eat healthy, without compromising on taste and quality. Wholly Veggie is now found in stores across Canada and Target stores throughout the United States.
Describe your role as National Sales Manager/Partner:
The function of my title and my day-to-day can often be two very different things. My primary focus is to maintain activities of the Wholly Veggie! brand at the store level. This means managing a team of sales and marketing folks that provide boots on the ground support for the promotion and/or introduction of Wholly Veggie products. I am continuously hunting for new business this is done nationally and internationally and includes meeting with a number of prospect retailers/foodservice partners to the planning and execution of tradeshows. Behind the scenes, I work closely with our operations team to ensure successful delivery of orders, assist in managing the launch of new products and work with a team of creatives who help build the beautiful brand you get to see on the shelf and in the media.
What are types of things have you been up to since graduating?
I started as a R&D Intern with Daiya Foods. This was a great learning opportunity both academically and personally; I worked with a team of science enthusiasts and received my first taste of a corporate environment. I then shifted to be a R&D Technologist and Head of Sales (Herbaland Brand) for Herbaland Naturals, to eventually leading a team to help create the Herbaland brand you see now.
How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for your current role?
Product Diversity, networking, training and mentorship from staff and industry professionals
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
The Vineland Project. This was an in depth sensory panel conducted over a weeks period. We invited panellists in over a period of five days to taste a number of different varieties of sweet potatoes. The foods were prepared under different conditions in the search of finding the perfect crop! I was able to carry these skills over to all my employers following my graduation.
“Embrace and take advantage of every minute. It goes fast and there’s a bank of knowledge and experience sitting there at your finger tips…just ask.”
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I originally wanted to be a chef but knew I wanted to better understand where my ingredients came from, how they got there and why ingredients interact the way they do when introduced to different environments. Niagara offered a unique program offering both culinary and food sciences.
Faculty members who influenced you?
Where to start?: Amy Proulx, Ted Reader, Sunan Wang, Gary Torraville, Sarah Scott, Sam Seaver, Dave Gibson, Jim McLean, Sabjit Bamrah.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Embrace and take advantage of every minute. It goes fast and there’s a bank of knowledge and experience sitting there at your fingertips…just ask.
Best experience at NC?
There can’t be just one. The wonderful team at Benchmark, the awesome professors, great facilities, and breaking into song with my classmates singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” before Regulations Class. I’d do it all again!
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
I’ve learned to work hard, stay persistent, and trust your gut. It’s a big bad world out there and you’ll have your ups and downs; but if you set goals and don’t give up, the world is full of opportunities. They’ll come from anywhere, and they’ll come to you.
Proudest achievement since graduating:
Helping build a brand (Wholly Veggie!) from zero to over 1,500 stores across North America.
Interests outside of work?
Fitness, food, travel, reading and social networking.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
No matter where you are, have fun; life is busy and complicated so make sure you’re doing something you enjoy.