Long read

What to expect at Business Leaders Forum October 2023

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

October 5 will see the doors open to the Business Leaders Forum - are you part of this exclusive community yet?
October 5 will see the doors open to the Business Leaders Forum - are you part of this exclusive community yet?

Related tags Business Training & recruitment labour shortage Leadership

Our prestigious and exclusive Business Leaders Forum returns this October 5 - find out what we'll be discussing and how you can get involved!

Last January saw almost 50 leaders come together to discuss key challenges in food and drink manufacturing in an open forum format. Among the topics explored by the select group of influential voices was the issue of the skills gap and an ageing workforce.

There are some truly brilliant sages among the food and drink ranks, but it’s not gone unnoticed that encouraging the next generation of engineers, technical heads, procurement specialists – you name it – has been difficult. At some point, the experts that we rely on will retire, and the leaders at the forum recognised this as an area we desperately need to address.

You can register your interest for Food Manufacture's Business Leaders Forum here.

What can be expected at October 2023’s Business Leaders Forum?

On 5 October 2023​, we’ll once again be opening the doors of our exclusive Business Leaders Forum – and for the first time, we’ll be bringing together a panel of experts to offer actionable tips and workable solutions in response to the challenge of recruitment and retention.

The Business Leaders Forum will follow its usual, welcomed format in which attendees will be encouraged to shape the conversation. An agenda, based on attendee feedback and topics of the moment has been specially curated as always for the next meeting, this includes:

  • Navigating regulations and the competence drain
  • Climate adaption, resilience and changing consumer preferences
  • Digital disruption and data transparency

Delegates will have the opportunity to air their own experiences, concerns and successes and benefit from their peers’ insight and knowledge. The event will begin with our ‘table discussions’, enabling delegates to network and raise additional topics. However, the entire format gives sufficient flexibility for other areas to be explored throughout the day’s programme.

To encourage free and open debate we operate the Chatham House rule, meaning participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speakers may be revealed unless their permission is obtained.

Agenda & Timings | 5 October



8:30am – 9am

Registration and Coffee

9:00am – 9:05am

Welcome: Bethan Grylls

9:05am - 10am

Icebreaker: Table Discussions

10am – 11am

Discussion – Navigating Regulations and the Competence Drain

11am – 11:15am

Refreshments and Networking

11:15am – 12:15pm

Discussion – Climate Adaption, Resilience and Changing Consumer Preferences

12:15pm – 1pm

Discussion – Digital Disruption and Data Transparency

1pm - 2pm

Buffet Lunch and Networking

2pm - 3pm

Panel Discussion - Talent & Recruitment Workshop: Understanding Gen Z


Closing Remarks

Getting into the minds of young people

Once the three main topics of the agenda have been explored, and following a buffet lunch and a chance to network beyond your table, VoteforSchools’ Penny Lamb will deliver an informative and sharp presentation to kick-off the ‘Talent and Recruitment Workshop’.

January 2023's event saw almost 50 leaders come together to discuss a range of topics, with Food Manufacture's editor (pictured) chairing the conversation

VoteforSchools offers children aged 5-18 with a platform to make their voices heard, with the additional aim of keeping them informed and curious on issues of the day. It facilitates topical debates with the students, with around 40,000 children voting each week.

Lamb, who works as head of partnerships and impact, will be presenting some of the findings from these debates around food and the future of employment, introducing why it is so important to listen to young people, and exploring their expansion in youth advisory boards.

“'We care deeply that children are informed about their options, but also that they are heard, and their voices are acted upon. As both potential future talent and customers, it is crucial they are listened to,” ​she told Food Manufacture.

The panel session

The panel discussion, which Lamb will join, also features the expertise of:

  • Daksha Stancilas, talent & development partner for Pret A Manger
  • Lisa Fox, group learning development manager at Nomad Foods
  • Cameron Rigg co-founder of Flourish in Food and previously a buyer at the Co-Op
  • Joanne Munnelly a compliance technologist working at Cardiff Metropolitan University with its ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre

It will be chaired by leadership coach and consultant Jon Poole.

Poole is an independent consultant focusing on organisational and development with a particular focus on leadership competency and development and career development, and has written several books on leadership, business coaching and career development. Until recently, he was chief executive of the IFST, the independent professional membership body for all those involved in technical roles in the food sector.

Alongside his consultancy firm Step Change, he chairs SALSA, the third-party supplier assurance scheme for small and micro businesses in the UK. He also currently pens Food Manufacture’s ‘The Talent Poole’​ monthly column, exploring leadership as it applies in the food and drink sector.

Fox will be joining Poole’s panel at the forum. She is a senior leader in learning and development with over 20 years’ experience in operational performance, talent progression and optimising people and performance. She has worked within corporate functions and latterly in manufacturing, helping people to reach their true potential.

Ahead of the event, she explained why the session is so key for leaders: “We have a responsibility as food manufacturers to encourage young talent into our industry so that they consider ‘food’ as their long-term career.

“This might mean that we think and act differently to how we have traditionally operated and therefore respond to their needs and wants which could be outside the norm. The diverse ways of thinking and innovation they offer should be seen as a benefit to our organisations, and therefore, they need to be nurtured and supported in their early careers.”​    

Stancilas also joins the line-up. She currently leads the emerging talent and development agenda at Pret A Manger, this includes early careers, the education and attraction of young people, commercial qualifications, and Pret's apprenticeship strategy.

She has worked with students by partnering with schools and delivering career talks in person and virtually through Pret’s work experience programme to create awareness of opportunities in the hospitality sector.

Adding her two cents to why this is such a topical conversation, Stancilas said: “Covid has changed how people think about their jobs and careers – young people especially are influenced by social media and it has carved a generation who are looking at careers in this space. As a result, young people are not thinking of careers in our sector and are therefore not applying for roles which they may have done so before the pandemic. 

“There is a misconception that careers are not sustainable and therefore not attractive, so recruiting young people into an industry which was negatively impacted needs to be addressed to become more appealing – and as employers we need to ensure messaging is appealing for them.”

We’ll also be joined by Rigg – an award-winning buyer in the retail sector, with a passionate interest in food.

Having completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Food and Nutrition at Sheffield Hallam, gaining a First Class Honours result, he worked for the Co-op Food buying Hot Food To Go and Self Serve Coffee.

He started Flourish in Food in 2020, which aims to give support to students wanting to progress in the food industry by linking them with mentors.

And finally, completing our panel, we have Munnelly – a passionate product developer with over 20 years of experience within FMCG, working with all major retailers, established brands, and start-ups.

She has experience across an array of food and drink categories, including raw and cooked value-added meat, savoury pastry, chilled ready meals, ambient cake, soft and alcoholic beverages, and food supplements. This variety led her to her current role as ZERO2FIVE’s compliance technologist – part of Cardiff Metropolitan University – offering technical support to Welsh food and drink manufacturers.

Her area of focus is legal label compliance, including the use of health and nutritional claims, although she still enjoys getting involved with NPD and is always on the look-out for new products.

“Being able to give the students an insight into the industry is important. Over the last year I have been invited to support student groups map out HACCP process flows for their NPD projects, been involved with taste panels as the products are being formulated, offering insight on scale up and run a Q&A session on real life labelling issues and product recalls,”​ Munnelly said.

Ensuring the future of food

We all know that food is vital to our survival - if we fail to entice the new generation into our sector, there will be ripple effects across the entire supply chain and even disastrous consequences. This panel session will serve to equip today’s leaders with actions they can take forwards to ensure tomorrow’s food system.

But whatever your passion is, whatever you're keen to problem-solve and explore in depth, this forum is going to be an exceptional day for learning, networking and discussion, reaching across a variety of topical subjects areas.

If you’re an influential voice and think you qualify to be part of this event, simply register your interest here​and we’ll be in touch to let you know if you’ve been accepted into the Business Leaders Forum community. It’s completely free, so what are you waiting for!

This event is proudly sponsored by Accruent, E.ON Energy and the Welsh Government. 

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