Directors and senior members of the food and grocery sector gathered yesterday (9 October) to discuss the future of the industry at the IGD Convention 2012.

Taking place at the Lancaster Hotel in London, the annual event, hosted by food and grocery industry body IGD, included key speeches from the likes of Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, who called for food retailers and manufacturers to adopt a universal front-of-pack food labelling format combining multiple traffic lights (MTL) and Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA).

King said: “The UK leads the way on responsible labelling. Around 80% of the population are using front-of-pack labelling to help understand what they are eating. We are working on a common format to bring together GDAs and MTLs so let’s get together as an industry and agree the details.”

Other speakers included Philip Clarke, group chief executive at Tesco, who tried to answer the question ’how can retailers win in today’s tough market?’.

He said: “Get personal, personalise your entire offer and anticipate what customers want in the future by guiding them and making their lives easier. Smartphone has the ability to force a personal relationship with customers and understand more about them, how they shop and their habits.”

Other members of the food sector who spoke on stage as part of the convention included Marc Bolland of Marks & Spencer, Richard Hodgson of Morrisons, Gill Barr of The Co-operative and Judith McKenna from Asda.

The convention also welcomed members of the online sector, including Ajay Kavan of Amazon and Dan Cobley of Google, to discuss the potential of digital media in the food sector.

Further highlights of the day included a series of audience polls, where individuals answered a number of questions about the sector on their keypads. It revealed 55% believe we will see much more innovation in our industry over the next five years, and 44% expect to see greater shopper loyalty over the next five years as companies find better ways to engage with their customers.

Around 30% of audience members thought price comparison websites will have the biggest impact on the industry in next five years, while 29% thought sites where consumers review and rate products will have the biggest impact.

In addition, 43% of the audience believed smartphones would account for the majority of online access by business people in five years’ time.