The UK Food & Drink Shows 2023 will bring together grocery’s best brands and leading experts.

Here’s how to make the best of it

Food and drink has had a tumultuous few years. After the supply shocks and shopper scrambles of the pandemic, the current cost of living crisis means consumers’ wallets are being squeezed like never before.

So far, a full-on recession hasn’t materialised. But rampant inflation combined with rising input costs are pushing up shelf prices even as supermarkets double down on value messaging.

So, how can the industry survive and, indeed, thrive in 2023?

To find out, William Reed, publisher of The Grocer, will bring together the very best of grocery, speciality food, convenience retail, hospitality and food manufacturing on April 24-26, as the UK Food & Drink Shows return to the NEC in Birmingham.

“Across the UK Food & Drink Shows’ three days, we’ll be addressing exactly what impact the heightened cost of living is having on the industry, grilling our expert panels on what can be done to help, and highlighting the latest products and solutions the sector has to offer,” says Andrew Reed, William Reed MD of wine & exhibitions.

Comprising four distinct shows, the three days have long been “an event in which industry professionals can come together, dissect problems and share ideas”, he adds.

“Our industry’s spirit was laid bare throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as we face yet another challenge, I have no doubt that we will unite once again in April to prove our resilience.”

FDE audience (3)

Source: William Reed

Visitors can expect to see and sample innovative new products from hundreds of big brands and challengers alike – all designed to refresh retail offers.

The shows are also a chance to catch up with colleagues and associates and create new connections, with networking opportunities across the three days.

As usual, the event has a full programme of live sessions led by industry thought-leaders and personalities, all offering unique insights and practical tips.

Take The Grocer Live, at which visitors will be able to catch up with Urban Legend CEO Anthony Fletcher. He will talk about how the healthier doughnut brand scored footballer Harry Kane as an investor. He will also reveal what’s next for a business that’s helping to reframe health and indulgence on the high street.

FDE people

Source: William Reed

The UK Food & Drink Shows will also offer attendees an exclusive snapshot of how retail is rapidly evolving to maintain pace with technological developments and trends – such as TikTok. On 25 April, visitors can discover how switched-on suppliers are driving food and drink sales through the wildly popular social media app.

It will underline how social media is a critical element of omnichannel retail strategies – on which market insight provider Lumina Intelligence will shine more light.

For the shows’ The Grocer Live strand, Lumina will provide data and salient examples to outline the opportunities brands and retailers have to diversify their channels effectively.

Also in the spotlight at the April shows will be vertical farming, which has won much favour with sustainably minded businesses and consumers. A crack panel of sector experts will assess the pros and cons of this alternative to traditional farming.

People power

Ultimately, it’s people who power the food and drink industry. And almost every worker has felt the strain of the past few years’ turmoil – which in turn has increased awareness of protecting mental health and staying mentally resilient.

Jayne Morris, author of Burnout to Brilliance, will explain how to spot burnout in yourself and others, and how to tackle the issue before it gets unmanageable.

Elsewhere, Karen Bates, group people director at BrewDog, will join a panel looking to define the ROI of supporting colleagues’ mental health.

FDE session

Source: William Reed

Visitors will learn what practical moves they can make to ensure everyone feels valued and looked after during stressful times.

Along with promoting mental wellness, upskilling staff is also essential as customer needs quickly change. The Upskilling to the Max session will consider simple hacks to ensure workforces have the skills to take the industry forward, with panellists Rod Addy, director-general of the Provision Trade Federation, and Deborah Kendale, business development director at the Institute of Food Science & Technology.

There will be time, too, to toast the industry’s leading lights. Across the show floor, William Reed will celebrate talent in award events such as Forecourt Trader of the Year and Farm Shop & Deli Retailers of the Year.

These will give centre stage to the people most likely to set the food and drink agenda for 2023 and beyond, via new thinking and ambitious ideas.

Will Shu

Key Speaker

Will Shu

Founder & CEO, Deliveroo

Will Shu saw the potential of tech to transform food delivery while working as a banker at Morgan Stanley at Canary Wharf. It led to him founding Deliveroo in 2013.

Now, with Shu as CEO, the company leads its sector worldwide and, via Deliveroo Hop, even includes bricks-and-mortar stores.

But it’s not always been an easy ride. After redundancies in early 2023, the company is now facing a switch in strategy to adapt to changing economic times.

So, how can he keep Deliveroo’s competitive edge alive? Adam Leyland, editor-in-chief of The Grocer, will sit down with Shu to find out on 24 April at 11.35am.


FDE exhibitor (3)

Source: William Reed

Food & Drink Expo

This show is a focal point for exceptional food and drink, highlighting the industry’s most exciting brands, people and trends. Exhibitors will cover the entire market – from grocery, wholesale and speciality retail to foodservice and manufacturing.

There will be dazzling products to try and the chance to talk to the people behind them. A wide variety of on-trend categories will be represented – not least low & no alcohol.

As a growing number of people go sober, show sessions will look at the demographics driving sales in the low & no category and how suppliers can further grow in the major supermarkets.

Greater value is, of course, another major trend in grocery.

So, join Iceland group buying director Andrew Staniland live as he gives the lowdown on how the retailer has successfully partnered with names like TGI Fridays, Greggs and Harry Ramsden’s, adding weight to the freezer aisle.

NCS audience

Source: William Reed

National Convenience Show

As the biggest UK event for the c-store sector, the National Convenience Show provides a platform to come together to share innovation and ideas.

There will be aisles full of new products and services from savvy brands aiming to help convenience retailers boost footfall and basket size.

During the pandemic, c-stores’ strong local appeal paid dividends as shoppers stayed close to home. Now wallets are stretched, there will be a busy programme of expert-led sessions to explore what’s next.


Key Speaker

Tom Athron

Tom Athron

CEO, Fortnum & Mason

Former Waitrose and John Lewis senior staffer Tom Athron has a plethora of premium retailer credits to his name.

And he didn’t let lockdown hamper his style when he took over as Fortnum & Mason CEO in 2020.

But, with discounters now winning footfall and consumers cutting back, how can the self-styled ‘world’s most famous corner shop’ adapt to the high street’s new normal?

Hear straight from Athron as The Grocer’s Adam Leyland asks the questions at a live interview session on 25 April at 1pm.

That starts with senior leaders from Spar, Nisa and One Stop explaining what they see as the biggest opportunities.

The next generation of retailers will share their views on-stage, too – with ambitious plans and practical tips on making convenience count.

Other highlights include a lively look at what’s changed for stores after six months of HFSS legislation, and whether dark stores are a threat or tool as more people shop online.

Plus, vapes have quickly become a controversial bestseller – so a dedicated panel will ask whether enough is being done to extinguish illegal vaping products in the UK.

Visitors can also discover what’s coming through in the legal vape market, with exhibitors like 6XY disposable, Airscream and Zovoo.

NCS aisles

Source: William Reed

Foodex Manufacturing Solutions

To better reflect the fast-changing processing, packaging and logistics sectors, Foodex is now Foodex Manufacturing Solutions.

The name has changed but the show remains the same premier trade event, dedicated to agenda-setting trends and innovations to improve efficiency and supercharge production.

So, what does it take to lead a food supplier during the cost of living crisis?

Business Leader of the Year 2023 Rich Clothier will share the secrets of his success. In an exclusive interview with Bethan Grylls, editor of The Grocer’s sister title Food Manufacture, the Wyke Farms MD will explain how he navigates challenging trading conditions.

Key Speaker

Karen Betts

Karen Betts

Chief executive, Food & Drink Federation

Karen Betts came to the food and drink industry after a successful career as a lawyer and diplomat.

Today, as CEO of the Food & Drink Federation – and adviser to the government’s Board of Trade – she brings her professional focus to bear in representing the UK’s food and drink manufacturing sector.

At the shows on 24 April from 1pm, she will speak out on two hot topics: boosting growth and profitability, and analysing how the industry must respond to the growing cost of living crisis.

That’s a hot topic. And so is harnessing new tech such as ChatGPT. Expert guests of Foodex Manufacturing Solutions will discuss whether factories might scrap workers in the next decade in favour of machines and algorithms, as post-Brexit immigration rules exacerbate the skills crisis.

Meanwhile, as AI gains ground, there will be a deep dive into how companies can use machine learning to make science fiction science fact.

Another pressing talking point for food and drink manufacturers is labelling. Visitors can join sessions on how eco-labelling can evolve to inform, rather than confuse, consumers, and how brands can use allergy labels to foster trust and satisfaction.

All that will happen alongside a wealth of manufacturers showcasing sector-specific tools to streamline production, with everything from cutting-edge cryogenics technology to cost-saving tunnel ovens.

FSD audience (3)

Source: William Reed

Farm Shop & Deli

Every year, buyers visit Farm Shop & Deli to sample some of the UK’s most exciting regional and local speciality food – and there will be plenty to try for 2023.

These will include innovative mixed drinks from Kocktail, eye-catching table sauces from Stokes, and Love Corn’s better-for-you bagged snacks.

There will also be an extensive range of retail solutions to help stores sell and showcase fine food – from jute bags to table-top vacuum chambers.

Adding to the show buzz will be programme of live sessions full of bright ideas and actionable insights via The Dragon’s Pantry Workshop strand.

Key Speaker 

Peter Batt

Peter Batt

Managing director, Nisa

As MD of Nisa, Peter Batt is responsible for setting the strategic direction of one of UK convenience’s most prominent symbol groups.

Aidan Fortune, editor of The Grocer sister title Convenience Store, will sit down with Batt for an exclusive interview from 2.45pm on 25 April.

The Nisa boss will offer his thoughts on the future of the c-store sector and provide the story behind his move last year from Co-op.

Plus, he’ll join other symbol group leaders for the Symbolising UK Convenience session at 11.15am on 24 April, weighing in on the challenges and opportunities for the industry.

Plus, powerhouse fine foods retailer Booths will explain how brands can get products into the mults, with head of procurement John Gill and head of business development Nicola Karran covering key considerations around what matters most to buyers.

The show will also cover how artisan and speciality brands can be a powerful force for good, supporting both the local economy and the environment. There will be informative sessions on the soaring B Corp movement in food and drink and the growing role of plant-based in the retail product mix.

Food safety will get essential airspace too, with a look at what Safe & Local Supplier Approval and the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety mean for the sector.