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Discussing the future of technology in Food, and how people can help make responsible decisions

10 February 2021 – City Harvest CEO, Laura Winningham OBE, is delighted to join this year’s City Food Lecture panel, hosted by BBC journalist, Charlotte Smith. The Panel includes: Laura Winningham, CEO City Harvest, Charlie Bigham, Food Entrepreneur and James Walton, Chief Economist IGD.

Fishmongers, Drapers and Vintners and Grocers work with City Harvest to ensure those in need are provided for, with incredible commitment and passion. We thank you for your continued support making food for so many in the poorest areas of London.

The Princess Royal, as a Past Prime Warden of the Fishmongers and Past Master of both Farmers and Butchers’ is a staunch supporter of the City Food Lecture and in the recent past has been the highlight of the event with her thoughtful and insightful reflections on the Lecture as well as her sage words of considered advice. We very much look forward to her closing address.


Ocado’s Mel Smith to address the ‘on-line challenge’ in the City Food Lecture 2020

Mel Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, the world’s largest dedicated online supermarket, will discuss the challenges facing traditional retailers in serving customers on-line, when she gives The City Food Lecture 2021.

Held on the evening of 10 February, the lecture titled: ‘The role of new technology in the future of UK food retailing’ is being held virtually for an audience of UK and international food and drink industry leaders.

Formed in August 2019, Ocado Retail is a 50-50 joint venture between M&S and Ocado Group. It is responsible for, online pet store Fetch and Ocado Zoom, a one-hour grocery service. Ocado Retail serves 350,000 households a week and has a 15% share of the UK online grocery market.

UK online sales grew by more than a third (36.2%) in 2020 as shoppers shifted to ecommerce to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic according to figures from BRC – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor released this week. A record-breaking 5.9 million people now shop for groceries online. Kantar figures show a rise in online grocery sales of 77% year-on-year in the four weeks to 6 September 2020. Online now accounts for 12.5% of total sales in the UK.

Following the lecture, there will be a panel discussion chaired by Charlotte Smith, presenter of BBC’s Farming Today. As well as Mel Smith, the panel consists of food entrepreneur Charlie Bigham, James Walton, chief economist of IGD and Laura Winningham, chief executive of London based food poverty charity, City Harvest.

John Giles, the chairman of the City Food Lecture organising committee, said: “With the pandemic creating so many changes in the way we buy and consume food, Mel’s lecture couldn’t be more timely. I’m sure her insights into online grocery retail will ensure the 2021 lecture will be fascinating for all who attend.”

Due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the 2021 lecture will be a virtual event held from 4.45 until 7.15pm. The City Food Lecture is one of the most prestigious events in the industry’s calendar and is supported by premium sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. It is organised by the seven City of London livery companies involved in agriculture and food: the Worshipful Companies of Bakers, Butchers, Cooks, Farmers, Fishmongers, Fruiterers and Poulters. It brings together 700 industry leaders, academics and liverymen and students from leading universities.

Mel Smith is the latest in a line of prestigious speakers that in recent years have included Dutch scientist, academic and broadcaster, Professor Louise Fresco, Dominic Blakemore, group chief executive of Compass Group, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis and former Cadbury Schweppes chairman, John Sunderland.


Notes to editors

Mel Smith

Mel has had an impressive career in the food and retail industry to date. She began her career at McKinsey, where she spent 12 years and became a partner, gaining extensive experience advising leading grocery retailers on their operations. She left McKinsey in 2009 to join TalkTalk as the executive director of operations and integrations, and subsequently moved to Bupa to serve as the global marketing and strategy director. In 2017, Mel joined Marks & Spencer as strategy director, before being appointed as the CEO of Ocado Retail in August 2019. She is also on the board of directors of SSE plc and is a Trustee of Sadler’s Wells.

The City Food Lecture

In addition to Rathbone Investment Limited, the list of food related sponsors and supporters is Compass Group UK & Ireland, AC Goatham & Son, ABP, HSBC, Roythornes Solicitors, Saffery Champness, Orchard World, Pelican Communications, the Fresh Produce Journal and Davy’s Wine Merchants.

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