What do you get if you fill Birmingham’s NEC with more than 1,200 food and drink exhibitors and around 25,000 visitors?

The answer is the UK Food & Drink Shows, the must-attend annual exhibition for the grocery, hospitality, specialist retail and manufacturing sectors. Brought to you by William Reed, publisher of titles including The Grocer and Convenience Store, this year’s event will take place at the NEC from Monday 29 April to Wednesday 1 May.

UK Food & Drink Shows 2024 comprises five events: Farm Shop & Deli Show, Food & Drink Expo, The Forecourt Show, National Convenience Show and The Restaurant Show. Brands and businesses at the show will range from startups to the biggest names in the industry.

With more than a thousand exhibitors, visitors will have the opportunity to sample the latest food and drink innovations and examine solutions for all aspects of their business, from trending products to services and equipment.

Expert speakers and panels will be present to address common industry issues, while giving visitors an opportunity to quiz the experts.

Take inclusivity and diversity. The industry has taken some major steps on the matter but still has a long way to go. The topic will be examined in panels featuring speakers including Innocent Drinks UK&I managing director Sam Akinluyi (The Grocer Stage, 30 April, 10:45am) and Britvic convenience director Suzie Dixon (The Grocer Stage, 30 April, 12:45pm).

And many show visitors will be wondering what is going on with meat alternatives, after 2023 brought a drop in sales and a raft of brands left the market. The challenges and opportunities for the category will be examined by panellists including Andy Shovel, founder of meat-free brand This, and Indy Kaur, founder of Plant Futures (The Grocer Stage, 30 April, 3:30pm).

Vegan products are also in the spotlight at the Plant-Based Zone at Food & Drink Expo. Returning to the show after its successful debut last year, the area is dedicated to vegan and plant-based products, including meat alternatives, snacks, drinks and ingredients.

Another specialist show area is the Healthy & Natural Zone, a one-stop shop for healthy, wellness and natural products such as free-from, low-calorie and organic items.

Also back for 2024 is Dragons’ Pantry, in which entrepreneurs meet the fearsomely experienced industry ‘dragons’ to make a 15-minute pitch for their new product, and receive expert insights in return (29 April, 1:15pm and 30 April, 12:15pm). While Dragons’ Pantry is focused on the farm shop & deli market, a similar concept called Retailers’ Den will launch this year to give entrepreneurs a chance to pitch products for convenience retail (30 April, 2pm and 1 May, 2:15pm).

And making its debut this year is a dedicated book signing area featuring sessions with authors including Planet Organic founder Renée Elliott (30 April, 2pm), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (1 May, 11:15pm), chef & restaurateur Dipna Anand (30 April, 11am), and chef Sabrina Gidda (1 May, 12:30pm).

Competitions and awards are a big part of the show schedule and include the presentation of the 2024 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards. Championed by Fieldfare and held in partnership with The Grocer, these awards recognise the UK’s standout independent food and drink stores. The shortlist was revealed last month, and the winners will be announced on Monday 29 April at 3:15pm on the Farm Shop & Deli Stage.

Also taking place at the Farm Shop & Deli Show are the judging and award-giving for the Britain’s Best Loaf competition (30 April) and new competition Britain’s Best Cake (29 April).

With so much food being judged and sampled across the shows, sustainability is a continuing focus for organiser William Reed. To minimise food waste, exhibitors have been asked to carefully plan the quantity of food brought for sampling. William Reed will also be partnering with food redistribution charity FareShare to donate any surplus food to those in need.

As Food & Drink Federation CEO Karen Betts said during last year’s event: “It’s a great event to be part of. There’s a great range of companies across the diversity of the industry.”

Whether you’ll be attending for the competitions, the fantastic networking opportunities or to hear and quiz the experts, you can register for free at the UK Food & Drink Shows website.

Food and drink Expo

Food & Drink Expo

Buyers and decision-makers, from grocery and wholesale to foodservice and manufacturing, will gather at this show. Among the highlights of the live events taking place on The Grocer Stage are:

  • Staff wellbeing: creating an inclusive culture (29 April, 11:15am). This session will offer actionable insights into what businesses can do to develop a more inclusive culture that allows colleagues to thrive.
  • James Cosmo: from Game of Thrones to Storyman whisky (29 April, 1pm). Best known for roles in Braveheart and Game of Thrones, Cosmo has now partnered with Annandale Distillery to launch his own whisky.
  • Food to go: the trends to watch out for in 2024 (29 April, 1:45pm). The food-to-go landscape has changed post-pandemic, and Lumina Intelligence will help visitors understand what is shaping the category.
  • Social media: food & drink trends (30 April, 2:45pm). Restaurant TikTok strategist Melanie Todd on what’s capturing an audience’s appetite on social media and how to strategically allocate your resources for maximum impact.
  • Steve Dresser: grocery trends from across the world (1 May, 10:30am). Join ‘the man supermarket CEOs turn to’ to discover what the UK can learn from its global counterparts.
  • Cassandra Stavrou: healthy snacking properly (1 May, 12pm). Cassandra Stavrou, founder of Proper Snacks, discusses her career, the rapid growth of Proper and what’s next for the brand.

Farm shop

Farm Shop & Deli Show

This show gives independent retailers the chance to meet suppliers, sample innovative products, and gain insight from experts and fellow entrepreneurs. Live events taking place on the Farm Shop & Deli Stage include:

  • Meeting the needs of consumers in the specialist retail sector (29 April, 11:15am). Retailers from across the sector will discuss the outlook for the future and how operators are adapting.
  • The key to building an award-winning store (29 April, 2:30pm). Farm Shop & Deli Retailer of the Year 2023, James Cunningham of Cunningham Butchers Food Hall & Steak House on what makes it stand out from the crowd.
  • A force for good: why sustainability matters (30 April, 10:30am). This expert panel will look at how retailers are driving change and the impact it has had on their business.
  • Supplying wholesale: dissecting your biggest route to market (30 April, 11:15am). Leading wholesalers will discuss the channel and what they are looking for when deciding whether to list a product.
  • Rosemary’s journey from foodservice to retail (30 April, 2pm). Celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager on her career, her new product range, the changing needs of consumers and the importance of the specialist retail sector.
  • The impact of the cost of living crisis on the specialist retail sector (1 May, 10:30am). Experts will unpick the challenges the industry faces, how the industry is adapting and the outlook for the future.
  • Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards: meet the gold winners (1 May, 1:30am). Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards gold winners will take to the stage to showcase their products and answer audience questions.


The Forecourt Show

The UK’s largest trade-only event dedicated to the forecourt and fuel market, The Forecourt Show brings together the commercial, manufacturing, environmental and retail sectors.

Among the discussions and presentations taking place on the Convenience Store/Forecourt Trader Stage are:

  • BP: the future of forecourt convenience (30 April, 11:30am). Joanne Hall, UK retail operations director at BP, on the future of the forecourt industry and how BP is adapting to the challenges and opportunities.
  • Making the most of the forecourt opportunity (30 April, 12:15pm) An expert panel discusses the evolving UK forecourt market, assessing the challenges and opportunities ahead and how operators can adapt.


The National Convenience Show

The National Convenience Show gives visitors the opportunity to see, sample and source c-store-specific products and services that can help to give a retailer the edge. Sector-specific discussions and talks will be hosted at the Convenience Store/Forecourt Trader Stage, including:

  • The female leaders shaping convenience (29 April, 12:45pm). Find out how some of the most inspiring and influential women in UK convenience began their careers, the challenges they overcame and the advice they would share to aspiring women.
  • What makes a winner in convenience? (30 April, 3:15pm). Winners of The Convenience Awards 2024 will talk about what it takes to build an award-winning store and the changing needs of convenience store shoppers.
  • Crime in convenience: a £125m issue (1 May, 10:30am). Experts will discuss the challenges retailers are facing and the solutions available to help mitigate the threat.
  • Vape regulations: the impact to convenience (1 May, 1:30pm). A discussion of the recent consultation and what impact a ban on single-use vapes could have on the sector.


The Restaurant Show

This is the first year The Restaurant Show, previously held in London, is being run at the NEC as part of the UK Food & Drink Shows. Panels and speakers on the Restaurant Stage include:

  • Rising costs: what support is out there? (30 April, 10:45am). Leading trade organisations and experts analyse the support available to businesses, what more needs to be done, and ask: what is the outlook for the short and long-term?
  • TikTok: how to capture an audience in 15 seconds or less (1 May, 10:30am). Restaurant TikTok strategist Melanie Todd is joined by a panel of experts to dissect the opportunity the social platform presents and the key basics to get right.

Key speakers

Key speaker Carlo Mocci 2024

Carlo Mocci

Deliveroo chief business officer, Europe

The Grocer Stage, 29 April, 2:30pm

Carlo Mocci spent seven years at Amazon in roles including grocery lead for Europe and Japan, before joining Deliveroo in 2020. He will sit down with The Grocer technology editor George Nott to discuss how Deliveroo has built a £1bn grocery arm.

Topics due to be covered include how Deliveroo is driving new consumers to on-demand grocery, expanding mid-sized baskets, making consumer discovery more personalised, the wider Deliveroo food business, and future opportunities and ambitions.

Following the launch of new retail service Deliveroo Shopping, Mocci will also speak about the opportunities for grocers to expand their non-food offering in-app.

Key speaker Chris Walker headshot

Chris Walker

Asda Express MD

The Grocer Stage, 29 April, 2.30pm

Chris Walker took up the new role of managing director of Asda Express in January.

His promotion followed the retailer’s demonstration of its commitment to the convenience sector with the acquisition of 132 Co-op sites.

As the conversion of these stores to Asda Express continues, Convenience Store editor Aidan Fortune will sit down with Walker to discuss the UK convenience retail market, the changing needs of consumers, the challenges and opportunities on the horizon, and Asda’s plans in the sector.


Heather Mills

VBites founder

The Grocer Stage, 30 April, 11:45am

VBites, the plant-based food company founded by Heather Mills in 2009, entered administration last year.

In a fast-moving run of events, Mills fought off rival bidders to personally acquire the company’s assets from administrators, and is in the process of launching version 2.0 of the brand.

In an on-stage interview with The Grocer editor-in-chief Adam Leyland, Mills will discuss the plant-based category, including the challenges and opportunities, the changing needs of consumers, the need for teamwork across the supply chain and future plans for VBites.

Key speaker Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Chef, writer & broadcaster

The Grocer Stage, 1 May, 12:45pm

Multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is known for his passion for sustainable food and farming, as well as his River Cottage shows and cookery school.

Fearnley-Whittingstall will be interviewed by The Grocer editor-in-chief Adam Leyland about his lifelong mission to encourage consumption of better, healthier, more ethically sourced food.

They will discuss what the UK food and drink industry can do to improve the health of UK consumers, waste less food, and help fight climate change, as well as the role of government in responding to these challenges.