Plenty of talking points at FWD conference – Coral Rose

As the industry gathers for the FWD conference, chair Rose checks out all the big talking points that are set to be discussed and offers her thoughts on how the sector can adapt to them

At the end of June, we’ll be gathering the FWD membership together at the FWD conference for the annual audit of what’s new, what’s next and what’s working well in the world of food and drink wholesale.

While it’s impossible to ignore the impact of the past two years of upheaval and indeed the state of seemingly permanent disruption that is the ‘new normal’ we used to talk about, we’ll be using this event to look forward. And that, conversely, begins with looking back to some of the priorities that were top of the agenda before March 2020: before Covid, Ukraine and the realities of leaving the European Single Market.

The conference’s theme is Sustainable, Digital, Diverse Wholesale; three absolutely vital pillars of any business plan now we’re no longer in crisis mode. None of these went away when we were busy elsewhere and without underplaying the importance of the price inflation and supply chain issues still to come, we need to be moving forward at pace on all three now.

If you haven’t already read it, I can recommend the sustainability feature in May’s Wholesale News, which outlines where several leading wholesalers are making steps towards reducing and mitigating carbon emissions. It was there that I read that 33% of shoppers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good and 92% of consumers say sustainable business practices should now be standard. If ever there was a reason to be redoubling our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and net zero, surely that is it.

I’ve said before that one of the few positives to come out of 18 months of lockdowns was that wholesalers realised they needed not only an online ordering and payment platform but one that is familiar in its functionality and personalisation to the ones their customers use in their lives as consumers. Many made a leap they had been putting off for years, but as usual in tech, there’s always someone leaping ahead.

The digital revolution brings with it opportunities that would have been logistically unthinkable, such as rapid B2C delivery from convenience stores or new dark hubs. You’ve got to run to stand still and one way the more analogue joggers among us can ensure we can do that is to plug into the best and most exciting resource our business has: its up-and-coming intake of talented young people.

That brings us to the diversity pillar. Some might think this is less of a priority than the other two, but they’re wrong. Plenty of evidence points towards diverse businesses being more productive and profitable, and it’s fairly obvious that a team that reflects the age, gender, ethnic and cultural spread of its customer base is going to be better placed to meet their needs.

I was delighted to see some positive feedback from the Women in Wholesale Speed Mentoring event last month – such energy and passion among the 100 (mostly) women in that room. Women in Wholesale is also launching its Coaching Academy; a superb initiative to build strong, assured leaders through personal development.

At the conference we’ll be introduced to FWD’s Future Leaders Forum, a group of incredible young women and men who know what they want from their career in this sector and know what direction they want to take the sector in too. They’re our future and I’m looking forward to meeting them – and you – on 30 June.

Coral Rose FWD FWD conference wholesale