Barcode Festival returned to Magazine London on 6th July, for its annual fundraising summer event, raising over £1 million for the first time in the event’s five-year history.
Supported by over 100 sponsors, the event brought thousands of colleagues together, from factory floor to head office, to back the charity that supports the industry and enjoy a stellar line-up of live music and entertainment.
Headlining the Skittles Stage was 90s superstar DJ, Fatboy Slim; girl band icons Sugababes and Eurovision sensation, Sam Ryder. Attracting the crowds on the Swan Stage were East Enders star, Shaun Williamson bringing Barrioke; Ella Vaday and Kitty Scott-Claus, plus DJ Tinchy Strider, while the M&S Demo Kitchen included celebrity chefs Ainsley Harriot, Rosemary Schrager and Fred Sirieix.
Grocery Trader caught up with Mandi Leonard, Welfare Director, GroceryAid to find out more about the festival and the work of the charity.
Tell us about Barcode. What is the purpose of the festival?
Barcode Festival is a fundraiser for GroceryAid, a charity which supports people across the whole of the grocery trade. We are completely self-funded, we don’t get any government funding. Barcode is our flagship summer festival, it’s our biggest event both in number of people who attend and the money we raise. It’s vitally important but it’s also important because we had colleagues from across the grocery sector attending.
Lots of businesses use Barcode as a reward and recognition for colleagues who might not otherwise come to an event. We had people attending from CEOs, all the way through their business to shop floor, production, logistics and distribution. So it’s a great way to not only reward colleagues but also to get awareness back out. Those 4,500 people who attended to come back into their businesses and talk about GroceryAid. The amount of people attending is growing year on year. I think the first one had just over 1,000 attendees. This is the fifth year of Barcode.
How popular was the demand for tickets this year?
Very popular. We completely sold out and we even had a waiting list.
How much money is the festival aiming to raise this year?
It will be our first £1 million Barcode Festival so £1 million will be raised in total for GroceryAid.
How much money was raised last year?
Around £900,000 was raised last year.
How many sponsors does Barcode have?
There are over 100 sponsors.
How can companies build brand awareness at the festival?
By taking an activation. Depending on how you want to promote your product, we sell activation spaces. Depending on what size business you are and what space you want to take, you can buy that activation package and come in. We had got 4,500 consumers trying products today. It must work because we get a lot of repeat visits, a lot of the people here have been here in previous years.
But we also really want to support new businesses and small start-ups as well so we had the incubator area, where small companies can come in and showcase their brands.
Tell us about the work of GroceryAid. What kind of work does the charity do?
We provide emotional, practical and financial support for colleagues working in any part of the grocery industry. So that could be a wholesaler, a manufacturer, a supplier, a retailer from the largest multiple down to the independent convenience retailer, the whole sector. So anybody who is involved in getting food and drink, FMCG product, from a production line, all the way through that logistics chain to you or I being able to buy it from a colleague, all those people through to that colleague are eligible for support. We provide support emotionally, practically and financially. We have a 24/7 freephone helpline, we have online digital platforms and partner services and we run financial grants programmes for colleagues working in the industry. All of our support is completely free for both the employer and employee to access and completely confidential. We would never tell an employer that an employee had approached us for support.
If someone worked, for example, in a warehouse for Sainsbury’s, how would they know about GroceryAid?
We work really closely with major businesses across the UK. We have a very vibrant communications programme. We push content out every month that they can distribute to colleagues. Our biggest challenge is awareness, it’s getting to those unwired colleagues. It’s really easy to get somebody who is in a head office, for example, where there are screens around or perhaps they have access to a laptop. It’s getting to colleagues who are on the production floor, who are working on the shop floor. It’s about understanding how they talk to colleagues in their business and making sure we have got access to the assets available. We have got videos, posters, cards, but also we work really closely with the industry. Myself and my RM colleagues spend a lot of our week talking to HR people, mental health first aiders in businesses, to line managers, site managers, so they understand what GroceryAid can do and can be there to spread the word and help colleagues.
What are the biggest challenges that GroceryAid faces?
I think it’s awareness. If you talk to senior leaders across the industry, they will all have heard of GroceryAid. If you go into a local outlet like an independent retailer or a supermarket, will they know about GroceryAid? It’s always our biggest challenge and the thing we are most proud of when we see people coming through from different areas of the business, that we are reaching colleagues who need support. We have a very active social media programme as well so we encourage colleagues to sign up to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, follow us on all those social media platforms so they can see everything we are pushing out. All of our grants programmes, all of our support is always pushed out that way.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
I get to see the difference we make to people’s lives every single day. From a welfare perspective, the thank yous that come in from people that we have given financial support to or people who have come back to us because they have had some counselling, or we have supported their child through some counselling support. It is the most rewarding job ever. To see sometimes quite small inputs can have huge impacts on people’s lives. It is incredibly rewarding.