MDS is the UK’s foremost provider of management training for the food industry. Founded in 1986 as a not-for-profit membership organisation, we create a pipeline of well trained, capable leaders to work in all aspects of the food supply chain.

Our membership includes some of the industry’s leading businesses: forward thinking companies committed to developing high-calibre individuals. MDS offers members the opportunity to build their own leadership pipeline whilst contributing to the success of the industry. Our members provide opportunities for MDS trainees to learn ‘on the job’ in roles with real responsibility, often managing specific projects or filling seasonal peaks. Our close collaboration with members ensures a broad range of suitable secondments as well as allowing ongoing input into the development of programmes.

MDS attracts a diverse range of candidates for our training programmes, from those early in their careers, either graduates or non-graduates with a couple of years under their belts, to more experienced people looking for a career change or returning to work after a break. The food supply chain offers a wide variety of opportunities and MDS equips people to make the most of them.

Each MDS trainee completes an industry specific qualification alongside a series of challenging secondments with member companies. Our programmes last for 18 months to two years and at the end of each programme members have the opportunity to recruit trainees. In the last 35 years, every MDS alumnus has succeeded in gaining employment within the industry.

MDS plays an important part in promoting the food supply chain as an exciting career choice. We look for the skills and attitudes that meet the needs of this fast-paced industry and each person is carefully mentored to ensure they reach their potential.

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Meet The Team

Our Staff


Sapphira Waterson

Chief Operating Officer


Gretta Ryan

People Development Manager


Kirsty Barden

Business Development Manager


Helen Lancaster



Sophie Rush

Finance Administrator Officer


Izzy Douglass

Content Manager


Kelly Cook

Trainee Liaison Officer


Tom Divers

Talent Acquisition Officer


The MDS Board


The MDS Board is made up of an independent Chair and seven non-executive
directors chosen from the membership to give a broad representation of the food supply chain

Christine Tacon - Chair
Christine Tacon – Chair

Christine Tacon

Christine has chaired MDS since May 2016 after a successful career in marketing and general management for companies such as Mars, Vodafone and the Co-operative Group, where she ran their farming business for twelve years. She was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004.

Christine was the first Groceries Code Adjudicator, a role she held for seven years, and is currently Chair of Assured Food Standards (ASF), which operates the Red Tractor Assurance scheme. She chairs the BBC Rural Affairs Committee and founded the Women in Food and Farming network. Christine holds an honorary doctorate from Cranfield University, where she is also a visiting professor.

  • Jason Beaumont, Head of Operations, Horticulture, Morrisons
  • Rebecca Charnley, Commercial Manager, G’s Group and MDS Alumna
  • Will Holmes, Global Seedcare Product Manager, Syngenta
  • Anna Pike, Head of HR, Worldwide Fruit
  • Sammy Ronald, Category Technical Manager, Sainsbury’s and MDS Alumna
  • Richard Whittle, Director, Protolan
  • Lucy Wills, Managing Director, Finsbury Foods

Beverly Dixon, who stepped down as a non-executive director in 2022, has been made an honorary director in recognition of her long service on the board of MDS.

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