Key takeaways from the City Food & Drink Lecture 2023

Key takeaways from the City Food & Drink Lecture 2023

Introducing Katie Gray, a group 50 Trainee currently seconded with G’s Fresh. She recently had the incredible opportunity to attend the highly anticipated City Food and Drink Lecture this month. Surrounded by industry titans and renowned experts, Katie immersed herself in the dynamic world of food and drink, absorbing invaluable insights along the way. In this guest blog, she unveils her top takeaways from the event, granting you exclusive access to the visionary perspectives and cutting-edge trends discussed.


The City Food and Drink Lecture is a staple in the food and drink calendar, a highlight in the year for anyone invested in ensuring the industry is future-proof. The 22nd event took place this month at the stunning Guildhall, London, an impressive venue that symbolises the importance of the event. Exclusive to the most innovative leaders in the sector, CFDL is open by invitation only event that brings together City livery companies and guests in the City of London to hear from leading figures in the British food business about issues they regard the most important in shaping the industry. Thanks to John Giles and organisers, a few MDS trainees had the privilege to be invited to the Future Generations Forum and the main lecture in the evening.

Future Generations Forum

Kicking the event off with an exciting networking opportunity for budding future leaders, the event started in the early afternoon. We were invited to hear from representatives from ABP Foods and McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers as well as getting some Q&A time with the evening lecture panel.

Inspiring experts from ABP told us how they “found their place in food”; discussing the varied career routes they have taken to get to where they are today from NPD to master butchery. It was a great insight into the different avenues each of them took to find their careers. The passionate message and advice that came from each representative was to always consider any opportunities that come your way, push yourself of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to ask for help to get to where you want to be. The industry is collaborative and thrives on supporting new talent.

Next, we took part in a networking session with leaders and future talent before hearing from the McDonalds Progressive Young Farmers placement students and alumni. They told us all about their experience in the rotational scheme and how interconnected the agri-food industry is, with constant opportunities to transfer and share skills.

Finally, we had the chance to have a Q&A with the panel of speakers that were taking part in the evening lecture. This gave us the exciting opportunity to challenge and question the panel in a more intimate setting about current farming sustainability issues to see their perspectives as a warmup before they got questioned in the 600+ audience later on.

Evening Lecture

The evening lecture was kicked off by a welcome from the toastmaster and the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Alderman who reminded us of the importance the City Food and Drink Lecture and historic Livery Companies hold to the industry.

Sir Charles Godfray shared his expertise in the main lecture. The fascinating academic managed to cram a wealth of topics into his 45 minutes slot including the challenges in public health like malnourishment and obesity to issues around sustainable intensification. He rounded off concluding that he is optimistic about future food supply chain resilience since seeing it in practice during the pandemic and continued collaboration is the key!

It didn’t stop there! Sir Charles Godfray joined a diverse panel of guests; Sue Davies, Sophie Lawrence, and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, who joined panel chair, Charlotte Smith. The combined panel had different perspectives on the topics which included water scarcity, meat consumption, aquaculture and consumers’ priority of convenience. This provided a variety of opinions all of which were intriguing and engaging.

Finally, the evening was rounded off by HRH The Princess Royal closing the event. She appreciated that the passionate panel had managed to remain poised and each offered diverse viewpoints. We were left to ponder the question “What does net zero mean?”; which could be a question for the lecture to ask in years to come.