Which group are you in? Are you wonderful or fabulous? Gorgeous or sexy? If you find yourself at a grocery industry event facing these questions amid a sea of young fresh faces, there is a good chance you are at IGD's annual Leading Edge Convention, where things are never done by rote - and the audience isn't simply told to split into 'group A and group B'.

Leading Edge, IGD's development and networking forum for young grocery and food industry managers, aims to stretch minds, offer new perspectives and provide a convenient platform to explore industry issues among peers.

This year's Leading Edge Convention, a full-day event held at the Hotel Russell in London earlier this month, was attended by nearly 300 delegates and certainly lived up to its billing as the premier blue-sky thinking and networking event for tomorrow's grocery stars. As usual there was plenty of great advice on offer.

Ross Page, of Oddball Training, for example, used step-by-step exercises that showed the conference participants how to use structured thinking process to envision the future they desire and define immediate actions to take them there.

IGD chief economist James Walton told participants that success in their careers would be defined by their ability to meet the needs of an ageing and increasingly demanding consumer base amid environmental challenges. Supply chain and workforce efficiency would need to increase dramatically, however, he said.

Though there were lots of strong presentations, arguably the best was that for Leading Edge's 2006 member of the year award by Procter and Gamble commercial director James McNaughton. Contestants had submitted essays on what they considered to be the most important characteristics for success.

The winner was James Howes, the Northern Foods category director. who collected £1,000, a certificate and a voucher for IGD training courses.

Howes said: "I'm a bit shocked, but this is fantastic. I have really enjoyed myself today. A lot of the exercises here are really outside the box. But it is interesting to think about how I can use the ideas to approach my job when I go back to work. I am also looking forward to taking some courses at IGD in the future."

The keynote speech was a worthy ending to the day. Yo! Sushi founder and Dragons' Den celebrity entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe gave a rousing speech in which he implored the participants to challenge themselves: to step out of their comfort zone and stare down their fears.

"Successful people don't go around being successful all the time," he said, "They try things and fail a lot. That is how they get to be successful."

Woodroffe said an entrepreneurial spirit would be the key to success in business over the next few decades, which he predicted would parallel seminal periods of change, such as the industrial revolution.

True to his word, Woodroffe was not afraid to look silly. He ended his speech with a live rendition of a song he recorded with The Blockheads, called 'How I Got My Yo!'

Many participants said they had left the convention excited and

rejuvenated by its balanced mix of market information, challenging presentations and the chance to meet and network with young industry executives such as themselves.

Lotwina Farodoye, a sales and marketing development manager at Percy Dalton, said: "I always find it useful to attend IGD events and courses, but it has been an absolutely brilliant conference this time around. I really enjoyed the 'Vision of the future' module."

Farodoye has been attending Leading Edge events for several years and credited the 'Your Personal Brand' session with helping her advance her career.

There is more to come from ­Leading Edge. Fiona Stratford, IGD's business learning director, says it plans to expand the programme.

The annual convention is going to become a two-day event and Leading Edge's internet presence will be broadened so that participants can interact, discuss topics and share information. It may also include a weekend MBA programme.

In the meantime, however, Stratford urges members to do all they can to take advantage of what Leading Edge offers right now. "Leading Edge is something of a hidden secret," she says. "It is one of the most valuable events we have - and it is free."n