Steve Barnes, GroceryAid’s Chief Executive, is the passionate front man for the industry welfare charity, which has just unveiled Barcode Festival, the UK’s first ever grocery industry festival and GroceryAid’s biggest and most ambitious fundraising initiative to date.

Steve Barnes, GroceryAid’s Chief Executive.

In Steve Barnes’ words, Barcode Festival marks an evolution of GroceryAid’s popular Summer Ball, taking the event to the next level by bringing together all that makes the food and drink industry special.

Steve joined GroceryAid in September 2016, in the newly created role of Chief Executive. He has spent his whole career in the grocery industry, beginning his career in location planning, evaluating sites for Safeway, Presto and Lo-Cost stores. He then spent 17 years at IGD, 12 as Business Director, and the last four as Commercial and Membership Director at the Food and Drink Federation.

Steve promises Barcode Festival will be THE summer party of 2018: “We reached out to our supporters and asked them what they’d like to see us doing. Among the younger managers, the future industry leaders, there was general enthusiasm for a different kind of event, involving a lot of different people.”

Barcode Festival will explode into life on 28th June 2018 at Hawker House in London. Showcasing the very best of the food and drink industry, this brand new event will providing a jam-packed line-up including games, star-studded entertainment, competitions, demos and much more.

Hawker House is a purpose-built venue by Canada Water tube, which hosts festivals and other gatherings. Steve continues: “Part indoors, part outdoors, it’s a funky place with lots of opportunities to do things with the industry –more than one stage for deejays, areas for street performers, guest stars like Levi Roots and even a football zone to tie in with the World Cup. We’ve made a good start securing the sponsors. This is a big thing for a charity to do, it’s brave and bold. We can’t name any companies yet but we have commitments going into double figures.”

GroceryAid continues to get great support from its loyal supporters, says Steve Barnes, “but there are more companies out there that we need to reach out to.”

GroceryAid helps 3,500 people financially and supports a further 10,000 who call its helpline every year. “In the last six months we’ve seen a rapid increase in people contacting us. It’s hardly surprising given the pressures the industry faces, with hours shortened across the supply chain: whether it’s manufacturers, retailers or distributors, people are struggling and need to be supported.”

Grocery Aid has 60 volunteer welfare assessors and 5 part time field officers who coordinate their activities. GroceryAid is not there to replace the benefit system, but to complement it: “As one beneficiary said, the difference GroceryAid makes is that they are living rather than just existing. Looking forward, we need to respond to the need and find innovative ways to support people in distress.”

In other GroceryAid news, the sold out Sporting Lunch at the Hilton, Park Lane, London on Friday 10th November saw the launch of the charity’s new film Anne’s Story, which you can see on the GroceryAid website. Steve Barnes comments: “Last year we received a letter from Professor Anne McArdle, Head of Department of Musculoskeletal Biology at the University of Liverpool. Anne was writing to say “thank you, which doesn’t seem enough,” in her words, after support from the charity allowed her to continue her education when her father, a supermarket manager, died when she was just 17.

“Professor McArdle is now a leading light in the field of biogerontology – the study of ageing – and her international research is of great significance. GroceryAid was able to step in at an inflection point in Anne’s life and make a positive difference in a time of great distress. We are proud of this story and this short film – we hope people out there love it as much as we do.”


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