Mari, Senior Product Development Manager, Restaurant & Retail
What is your position here at Ghirardelli and what do you do?
I am the Senior Product Development Manager for our Restaurant and Retail division. Our team is responsible for innovating, designing, and executing from beginning to end all the products that end up in our Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shops. This covers things from Christmas gifts to ice cream sundaes. In kindergarten, when they tell you that someone has the job of tasting ice cream for a living, they’re talking about me! My team covers the full product development process including concept, design, sourcing, builds, nutritionals, co-packing, and store launch.
How has Ghirardelli helped you in your career development?
I used to be a buyer specializing in antique silver and tabletop goods. I really liked putting together my own assortments, but I was limited to purchasing other company’s products. I have a background in consumer psychology, industrial design, and business, so creating my own products was really an ideal job for me. However, finding a position that utilizes both my analytical skills and my creative skills is a challenge. This position combines the two effortlessly and has allowed me to develop my leadership skills, my strategic planning skills and my ability to create and refine processes. We now have a three-year product plan and a clearly defined path to develop new products.
If you could switch your job with anyone else within Ghirardelli whose job would you want?
We work very closely with our regulatory team. They are always up on the laws for how information needs to get relayed to customers. While dealing with FDA guidelines might seem tedious, I think the intricacies of what they do is fascinating, and I’d enjoy making sure that we’re representing our products in the best way possible. Though, I clearly have the best job at Ghirardelli, so I’d be hard pressed to actually switch jobs!
What advice do you have for a prospective candidate considering Ghirardelli?
Chocolate isn’t all sugar rushes and sweet treats. Though, there are plenty of those too. There are a lot of complexities involved in creating a high-quality product to sell across the globe. If you aren’t passionate about the job you are doing, those complexities can start to seem overwhelming. Don’t overlook the small tasks that you’re passionate about. I have a deep love affair with Excel and get really excited when I know I’m going to be able to create a rockstar document that will not only make our lives easier but also allow me time to feed my inner nerd. Know what those small things are that feed your soul so that when you’re interviewing, you can communicate them to the team and we can see the passion you are going to bring to us all.
What drew you to Ghirardelli originally and what has changed since?
I was really ready for a position that not only let me control the assortment I was crafting, but also create the gifts in that assortment. So often as a buyer, you think to yourself “I know what I want to buy, but I can’t find it anywhere!” I also wanted to work at a company that cared about its employees and focused on culture and work-life balance. The thing that has changed at Ghirardelli since I started is a desire to establish more processes around the products I create. We have a lot more cross-functional support to make sure that our gifts are built properly, ship tested, have the proper nutritional format, are consistent in all the stores, and present an overall quality product to our guests. What’s changed for me since I started is that I’ve really found a love of strategic planning and have been able to think beyond just an individual assortment to annual cadences and long-term plans.
What is your proudest moment at Ghirardelli?
Creating a product is truly a labor of love. You spend months developing the idea and then working on revisions with vendors until it is just right. We wanted to develop a gift that reflected Domingo Ghirardelli’s coming to America during the gold rush and that showcased our current day “golden” product- Milk Chocolate Caramel Squares. We decided that a gold bar tin would capture this perfectly. However, this shape wasn’t standard with any of our vendors, so we had to create it from scratch. The first-round samples from our vendor just weren’t doing it. So, I took it old school and created the shape I wanted out of paper. Sometimes a good crafting session is all it takes to get a project back on task. The next samples we got after that were perfect! We’ve had the product in stores for over a year now and in 2017, it won Package of the Year at a packaging show! I was so proud that something I had a literal hand in developing was being recognized. The Gold Rush Tin has been selling extremely well and I'm happy to see it every time I'm in a store.