How a business can benefit from advice gained from Leading Edge. Ronan Hegarty reports

Jules Starck, marketing manager for London-based fresh produce supplier Valley Grown Salads, has picked up the Leading Edge Member of the Year award. Starck received her award plus a cheque for £800 at the Leading Edge Convention in London last month having beaten off tough competition from three other short-listed finalists to win the award, launched five years ago by the IGD networking forum for young managers in the food and grocery industry.
This year members were asked to write a report on how they had taken something learnt or discussed at a Leading Edge event and used it to improve the way they did business.
Starck demonstrated how she had used some of the ideas on collaborative working practices that she had been introduced to at a Leading Edge seminar on Efficient Consumer Response to develop a closer business relationship with Valley Grown Salads’ main customer Waitrose.
Using these skills, she was able to convince her directors that developing a stronger relationship with Waitrose was vital for future growth and persuade Waitrose that Valley Grown Salads was a company that could offer a sustainable, competitive advantage. By gaining a better understanding of what the Waitrose team wanted from its fresh produce suppliers, Valley Grown Salads was able to provide high quality tomatoes even during periods of supply shortages and price increases. In fact, this summer Waitrose enjoyed its biggest ever trading week on tomatoes.
Through her efforts Starck was deemed to have strengthened the bond between the two companies. She was even invited by Waitrose to speak at its company conference. She will also be invited to address next year’s Leading Edge Convention.
Starck said she was delighted to win the competition: “It’s fantastic to be recognised in this way.”
She is currently in the process of organising a supplier conference in Spain where she hopes to take her project to the next level.
“All of our growers, buyers and suppliers will be there in an effort to build the relationship further and develop a greater understanding of each other’s business,” she said.
Leading Edge is a development network, initiated and run by IGD. For more information contact Tamra Detheridge on 01923 857141.