Those planning an impromptu picnic in the Canary Wharf sunshine may well head to Marks And Spencers .
It’s shelves are heaving with dozens of products design for customers to grab and go in minutes.
But their journey to office workers mouths actually started a year ago in an office in Paddington.
Every sandwich, wrap, and packet of sushi was meticulously planned by the brand’s senior product developer for food on the move Helen Brennan.
“This year our theme is about flavours of the Mediterranean and I travelled to Rome and Barcelona for my inspiration, “ said the Londoner.
“I spent a week whizzing round those cities and trying street food, markets, restaurants.”
The result is the Spirit Of Summer range which the Kingston resident spent months developing with suppliers.
“I love that no one days is the same. It is never boring.
“One day I’m going round looking at independent shops in east London, the next I am with a supplier tasting our first samples from the concept ideas.
“And I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world over my career, Australia, Japan, New York and Europe.
“The worst bit is, believe it or not, that eating isn’t always that glamorous - sometimes we have to start at the crack of dawn.
“We might taste 50 samples in one review and staying objective can be quite a challenge, as can staying slim.
“It does play havoc with your insides.”
She battles the bulge with walks in Richmond Park, her favourite picnic spot, but said that fortunately there is a big movement in the food industry this year towards less fattening options.
“We are definitely always looking at trends and what the next thing is our customers want.
“I’m out in London a lot because it is a great city for food on the move and a lot of the trends right now are around health and lifestyle choices.
“Gluten free is a huge trend at the moment and we have started doing alternative sandwiches and wraps. And so is made without in general, so drinks made without dairy.”
Every product she creates has to be tasted by her numerous times and a consumer panel and then scaled up for factory production.
She also has to fine tune the packaging to ensure the food reaches customer’s picnic blankets in Instagram perfect condition.
It is a task aided by the fact Helen was working for a packaging company when she decided the job of food developer was “the one for her” more than 30 years ago.
“I was very passionate about food, taking lots of local education classes in cooking, and on the strength of that they took me on and trained me up.
“I’m still just as passionate about it now.
“Food on the move is so dynamic. It is about products people can grab and take out on a picnic with no fuss.”
Her ‘wow’ product this summer is a black charcoal roll inspired by the version she saw in Italy.
“Ours took a lot of development to get it looking black and shiny and not purple and tasting not too much of carbon.
“We gave it a Spanish feel with smoked paprika mayo and king prawns and then added a bit of fun with a pipette of chilli dressing which was inspired by pipettes of rum I saw in Paris.
There is also a chicken and chorizo paella wrap she design to bring back memories of classic summer holidays and her favourite product- the olive oil piadina wraps she discovered in little takeaway shops in Rome.
“My aim is to give people something special,” said Helen.
“A reason to come to Marks And Spencer for their summer food.”
Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook