Former Co-op CEO Jo Whitfield was one of the Grocery Girls original co-founders in 2018

The Grocery Girls group originally founded by former Co-op Food CEO Jo Whitfield is being taken over by consultancy firm YF.

YF (formerly Young Foodies) will now be responsible for the 3,000-plus membership base that Grocery Girls garnered over the past five years.

CEO Thea Alexander confirmed the group would be “subsumed” into the wider YF community, meaning it will no longer have a focus on the female-led diversity agenda for which Grocery Girls vouched.

“A lot of this is about the Grocery Girls members being effectively subsumed into the activities that YF already does,” Alexander told The Grocer. “But we will be investing more over the coming year in response to this to make sure that the members get as much of a continuation of what they got at Grocery Girls as possible.

“What is not happening is Grocery Girls continuing as Grocery Girls under YF – that’s a really important distinction.”

The group was originally established to raise awareness of gender inequality in the grocery industry and drive change across leadership roles.

Throughout its existence it offered members regular in-person and virtual events and also launched a successful podcast with guests from the industry.

It stood alongside other groups such as Meat Business Women and Women in Wholesale.

Whitfield, who became the first female CEO of a major UK grocer and is now CEO at fashion retailer Matalan, was one of the original Grocery Girls co-founders in 2018.

She said that while passing on the baton to YF “wasn’t an easy decision”, she believed this was the right moment for change and that the network was “in safe hands with YF”.

“There was always going to come a moment when we would reflect on what has been achieved at Grocery Girls and hand the baton to others to enable breadth and growth. For us, the time is now,” she said.

“We are hugely grateful to everyone that has been a part of the Grocery Girls community over the past five years and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you. We always wanted this social enterprise to be available to everyone and it’s been great to see the way the industry has responded.

“We hope our members continue to thrive with the brilliant YF and drive the grocery industry forward, as there is still so much which can be achieved.”

YF is known mainly as a consultancy firm helping particularly smaller brands invest in innovation and make it in the grocery sector.

Alexander said all Grocery Girls members that were brands would also be given access to the benefits that YF brand members currently get, from innovation advice to networking and events.

“We have four groups that YF currently serve: the first is brands, the second is retailers and that could be from a wholesaler or procurement background, the third is investors – those that are interested in brands because they’re looking to build a portfolio – and the fourth bucket is service providers,” she explained.

“When we broke down the Grocery Girls group it was pretty much identical and a lot of the things that they were looking for are things that we do.”

Alexander said that while the YF language was “focused on innovation rather than women”, they would still “deliver all the benefits that members got at Grocery Girls – the connections, the inspiration, the knowledge, the networks, and so on… everyone will be signed up to our newsletters and comms”.

She said more details would be announced over the coming months.