As a new employee at Orkla, Magnus Alexander Fjeldstad was put in charge of building an entirely new branded product, the successful Totenflak potato chips. Read more about his first year as product manager at Orkla here.
A year and a half has passed since I turned in my master’s thesis and took on new challenges at Orkla Confectionery & Snacks. It was a choice that proved not only to meet, but vastly exceed my expectations.
In June 2015, I made my way to Orkla’s head office at Skøyen. There’s always a certain amount of tension involved when you’re starting out in a new job, but Orkla is very good at getting new employees up to speed quickly. The method is simple, but smart: give them a lot of responsibility from day one. This means that the learning curve is very steep, and after just a couple of days I was in full swing with my responsibilities and projects. Naturally, you’re also given a wide range of valuable training, but that usually happens a little later. That way you benefit a lot more from the courses, since you have more experience which makes it easier for you to assess the information provided by the courses.
As product manager at Orkla you are responsible for one or more well-known Norwegian branded consumer goods. This includes responsibility for both the profitability and sales performance of your portfolio. Innovation is our primary tool for creating top-line growth. We therefore spend a lot of time analysing markets and trends, and then heading innovation projects in line with the strategy adopted for the brands. You don’t work on these innovation projects alone; you act as project manager for a team of four to ten persons, depending on the size of the project. The project team is a cross-functional group consisting of members from different departments, including sales, category, finance, product development and logistics. This work is particularly exciting at Orkla, since the entire value chain is in-house. That means that you have considerable influence in all areas and on all the details of the concepts and products that are eventually launched.
Let’s rewind to my first day at work in June 2015. After a friendly round of introductions, I was given more detailed information about my personal areas of responsibility. I was to be part of the snacks team, in charge of the “cheese snacks” and “kettle chips” segments. These two segments pose entirely different challenges. In the cheese snacks segment we had a very strong presence with Cheez Doodles, while in the kettle chips segment we had no presence at all. My assignment was therefore to develop a new concept that could be a competitor for Sørlandschips’ position. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to lead the process of building an entirely new branded product. We decided to highlight our local origins in the Toten district, where we both produce the chips and source our potatoes, by choosing the concept and brand name Totenflak.
In the months that followed, the project made rapid progress. We developed and tested innumerable product solutions. After many rounds of refinement, the design was perfected and the final decision was made. Forecasts and price estimates were drawn up and approved. The concept was marketed to the grocery chains. And last, but not least, a large-scale (and somewhat untraditional) advertising campaign was created. Nine months later, in the spring of 2016, Totenflak kettle chips were displayed on store shelves. Over half a year since it was launched, we have sold more than 3.2 million bags, which far exceeds our big hairy ambitions for this launch. It has quite simply been an amazing journey, which I am very grateful to have been a part of.
If you’re interested in brand-building and innovation, and perhaps are an entrepreneurial type of person, there is no better alternative than Orkla.
On 1 May 2018 Magnus Alexander Fjeldstad resigned as Brand Manager at Orkla Confectionery & Snacks and is currently working as Brand Manager at Jordan and Orkla House Care.