This is what a day in the life of a Percy Pigs designer looks like

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of interesting women. Here, we hear from Sarah Loxton, 51, a Senior Product Developer for Marks & Spencer.

My alarm goes off…

At 6.15am. I feed Lola, our labrador puppy before getting the family up. I’ll eat fat-free Greek yoghurt with homemade granola while we chat about what everyone has planned for the day. I’ll wear a jumper and trousers from Zara and leave the house at 7.45am to catch the bus then Tube to work, checking my phone on the way to see if any meetings have gone into my diary.

I’m responsible for…

Developing and updating Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pigs range along with its biscuits and savoury snacks. This year was Percy’s 25th birthday; he’s a very recognisable fruit-flavour sweet, so it’s about preserving that aspect while moving him on by introducing new lines, such as the Christmas Percy Pigs with Percy in a red Santa hat. I was responsible for the launch of the Percy and Penny side-line, but my personal favourites are the Phizzy Pig Tails.

Sarah tests around 15 samples of Percy Pigs a day

I got the job…

Twenty-three years ago. I worked as a conference organiser after studying hotel management and catering at university. I saw an advert in The Sunday Times for an M&S product developer and began working in the salad department in 1996. Every three years I change areas – I’ve done everything from sandwiches to groceries – and in 2012, I started working with Percy.

My typical day…

Begins at 8.20am, at our HQ in Paddington. My first meeting might be with the manufacturer. We’ll discuss new projects such as the Halloween Percy Pumpkins and ideas for shapes and flavours. We’re also working on new gelatine-free concepts to go along side our existing Veggie Percys. I’ll test around 15 samples – chewing and spitting them out – and swill lime juice to clear my palette.

At 10.30am I’ll have another meeting with a supplier of savoury products; we’ll start planning for Christmas 2018 – we work 15 months ahead. For lunch I have something very light, like a soup or salad in case I have more tastings. 

Then I’ll write reports on our brand strategy for Percy. Our most successful range is still the standard 170g bag, sold all around the world.

I also read his fan mail; people have had Percy-themed weddings. One man had Percy tattooed on his bum.

I’ll visit stores such as Fortnum & Mason to glean ideas and spend a lot of time in our library – it has almost every cookbook and food magazine ever published. I finish work at 6pm. 

This is what our shopping basket looks like just before a long train journey

My most memorable moment…

Was photobombing Sky News’ Kay Burley with a 6ft inflatable Percy Pig at St Mary’s Hospital, while she reported on Prince George’s birth in 2013. It was Percy’s 21st birthday so we were handing out sweets but kept getting caught in shot.

The worst part of my job…

Is spreadsheets. I’d rather talk.

The best part of my job…

Is seeing the products I’ve worked on in people’s baskets; it’s very rewarding. 

After work…

I go to new restaurants with family and friends to keep up with trends; recently I’ve been to Madame D in Shoreditch and Darjeeling Express on Carnaby Street. I’ll get back around 10.30pm, watch the news and read a food magazine before going to sleep at 11.30pm.

My Plan B: Home Economics Teacher

I would teach primary school children to cook. I’m slightly worried about the fact that people are growing up not knowing how to do it – I spent my childhood in the kitchen with my mum and grandma and my daughter is now doing the same with me. 

Images: Sarah Brimley