Organisers of the City Food Lecture have announced that the 2021 lecture will be given by Mel Smith, chief executive of Ocado Retail.

Formed in August 2019, Ocado Retail is a 50-50 joint venture between M&S and Ocado Group which serves 350,000 households every week and has a 15% share of the UK online grocery market.

Smith 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, Smith 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.

“With the pandemic creating so many changes in the way we buy and consume food, Mel’s lecture couldn’t be more timely.”

Due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the City Food Lecture 2021 will be presented as a virtual event, but with a studio broadcast live from keynote speaker and panellists. The date is Wednesday 10th February from 4.45pm until 7.15pm

Following the lecture, there will be an interactive question and answer session with a panel of food industry specialists chaired by Charlotte Smith, presenter of BBC’s Farming Today.

The three panellists are: Charlie Bigham, a food entrepreneur specialising in providing his own branded ready meals for major retailers, James Walton, chief economist of IGD, which provides insight training and research for the food and grocery industries, and Laura Winningham, chief executive of City Harvest, the London-based charity tackling food poverty. 

John Giles, the chairman of the City Food Lecture organising committee, commented: “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.”