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From Würzburg into the world


The world of chocolate has lost nothing of its fascination even after 23 years. At least for Urs-Peter Schmidt, an alumnus in Business Management at the University of Würzburg. Today, he is looking for new ideas to meet his customers' needs.

Urs-Peter Schmidt
Alumnus Urs-Peter Schmidt makes sure that the sweets shelves in European supermarkets are always well stocked. (Photo: private)

Which jobs do graduates from the University of Würzburg work in? To present different perspectives to students, Michaela Thiel, the director of the central alumni network, has interviewed selected alumni. This time, the spotlight is on Urs-Peter Schmidt.

Urs-Peter Schmidt studied Business Management at the University of Würzburg. Today he works at Mondelez in Zurich, a multinational food company that includes several brands such as Milka, Toblerone or Oreo. In his position as the Category Planning Director Central Europe, Schmidt and his team are responsible for translating the category programmes for chocolate, biscuits, chewing gum and candy into distribution plans for 22 countries.

Mr. Schmidt, how did you end up with chocolate? During my Business Management studies with a concentration in Marketing, I did a marketing internship for Milka with Jacobs Suchard in Bremen. I loved working on a young team with such wonderful products as chocolate tablets, chocolate bars or assorted chocolates. After three months of internship, I knew for sure that I wanted to work for Milka.

And what next? Thus inspired, I applied for a position as Assistant Brand Manager in the chocolate marketing department with Jacobs Suchard. Fortunately, my application was successful and I got immersed into the world of chocolate in Bremen. Today, 23 years later, the world of chocolate has lost nothing of its fascination for me. 

How did your career develop? Having worked in marketing with various responsibilities such as "classic product marketing" with packaging design and commercial developments, innovation management or "European management of brand equity development", I became the Category Planning Director in the sales sector of our Central European region in 2015.

What are the tasks of a Category Planning Director? My team is present in all 22 countries of the region and we support the category marketing with translating the marketing programmes into specific customer activity plans in the countries. We make sure that the central brand strategy is implemented and that the programmes are adjusted to the country-specific consumer trends or legal frameworks. Also, we develop the Point of Sale Promotions and activities which are subsequently implemented by the key account and field sales team in the individual stores. And finally, we are responsible for analysing the customer potential and fully unlocking revenue potential jointly with the key account teams.

Which skills are essential in your job? Is a fondness for chocolate included? It is crucial to be curious about trends and to be willing to permanently look out for new ideas to satisfy customer needs such as creating new tastes or novel sales programmes. Also, you need a lot of patience, endurance and perseverance. What looks effortless in a commercial or supermarket aisle is actually the result of hard team work over a long period of time.

So it's not all sweets and treats … You have to like working in international teams and collaborating with diverse departments. A good comprehension of numbers as well as analytical and logical thinking over complex circumstances is also vital. Most importantly, however, you have to enjoy the work and the rest will follow.

What would you recommend to students who want to pursue a similar professional career? I can highly recommend my professional career to students who have the abilities mentioned above. If you believe that active selling is your strong suit, you should apply with a sales department. If you prefer creative work and developing new stuff all the time, I suggest opting for a career in the innovation departments of consumer goods companies or in an advertising agency.

What is your best memory of your studies in Würzburg? I like to think back to the wine tastings in the cellar of the Residence. The hospitality I experienced in Würzburg and enjoying a glass of tasty Franconian wine make me come back to the city on a regular basis.

Thank you for the interview.

By Michaela Thiel / Gunnar Bartsch