Barcode Festival and GroceryAid / The Charity Supporting the UK Grocery Industry

In July, Magazine London hosted Barcode Festival, raising more than £900,000 to support our essential workers in the grocery industry. Here, we explore the foundational work of GroceryAid, the charity behind the festival.

When the pandemic first hit the UK in March 2020, the country’s grocery workers joined the new frontline. With long queues at supermarkets, widespread shortages and fears of stockpiling, they worked to ensure people could access food safely and reliably. All levels of the production chain were affected, from farmers to product developers, drivers and retailers. With very little time to prepare, the industry underwent a vast reorganisation. Many went above and beyond to support the most vulnerable people in our society, working overtime to organise deliveries to those shielding, putting together food boxes for NHS staff and partnering with food banks.

Although the role of the country’s grocery workers has been brought into sharper focus recently, GroceryAid has been acknowledging, celebrating and supporting their work for more than150 years. The charity was founded in 1857 as the National Grocers Benevolent Fund to support the people who grow, make and sell food. Today, they offer emotional support and counselling, as well as legal and financial advice in the form of hardship grants.

Support such as this has been more needed than ever over the past few years. Richard Fleming, a manager in the food business and ambassador for the charity, describes witnessing ‘a change overnight’ in terms of his colleagues’ wellbeing. From only three or four conversations per year before the pandemic, the ‘welfare conversations almost became daily’. GroceryAid provided Richard with a place he could refer colleagues in need of counselling or financial aid, as well as access to mental health support for his own family. With practical solutions like these, the charity has supported more people than ever before, with a 61 per cent increase in direct impact over the past year.

Barcode Festival was held at Magazine London for the second time this year, raising a record-breaking £900,000 for the charity. Over 4,500 guests attended the event, which saw a sun-soaked all-day festival on the riverside Showground and continued late into the night with performances by Steps, Tinie Tempah and Bastille on the Skittles stage.

“We are proud that we are helping so many colleagues when they are facing crises. Ultimately that is the purpose of Barcode, to ensure we as a trade can raise the money to carry on our life-changing work for colleagues in need.”

The outdoor spaces of Magazine London were transformed into a seaside funfair for the occasion, complete with Helter Skelter, deckchairs and selfie-ready fairground cut-outs. The outdoor Marks & Spencers Demo Kitchen hosted Ainsley Harriott and Fiona Uyema, who shared food stories with the crowd as they cooked up a storm. More than eighty of the industry’s leading brands hosted activations and giveaways, from Espresso martinis to mac ‘n’ cheese.

Barcode Festival is an important date in the grocery industry’s calendar: as well as raising money for essential forms of support, it provides the opportunity for colleagues and sponsors to get together, celebrate and recognise the achievements of the industry as a whole. With its headline acts, sell-out attendance and record-breaking fundraising, the 2022 edition set a new benchmark of how to produce a charitable event.