2024 UCB National Conference: Insights from day one and two

The UCB 2024 National Member Conference was held at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, and the industry was out in force.

The conference, which ran from 5-7 March and had the theme ‘C Differently’, featured an impressive array of speakers providing interesting insights, as well as a number of activities and dinners offering opportunities for attendees to network, mingle, and catch up.

Tuesday evening commenced with a welcome and introduction from Darren Park, CEO of UCB, who gave a brief overview of what the days ahead will hold.

Wesley Fairlie, Category and Channel Strategy Manager at Asahi, then took the stage to discuss how retailers can maximise their drink sales through targeting shopper top-up missions and optimising promotions and value offers.

Brett Barclay, Director at Convenience Measures Australia (CMA), gave attendees a quick review of the soon-to-be released State of the Industry report, providing a general overview of how the P&C channel has performed over the course of 2023.

Bradley Shaw, Manager of External Affairs and Communications at Philip Morris International, then spoke about the challenges facing the industry in the tobacco sector with a rise in illicit tobacco and vape sales. Shaw discussed ways in which retailers can assist in minimising the impact of these unscrupulous retailers.

Dr Nici Sweaney, founder of AI Her Way, spoke of the impact that artificial intelligence is having on the industry, both the positives and negatives. Dr Sweaney discussed how retailers and suppliers can avoid falling victim to AI scams and tricks, as well as how best to harness the new technologies.

The session ended with an interesting chat between two cricket legends, Sir Ian Botham and Greg Ritchie. The pair discussed on-field antics and highlights from their careers, as well as Sir Botham’s impressive charity work in the field of childhood leukemia, in which he has raised millions of dollars.

After an insightful evening of speakers, the trade show got under way, enabling retailers and suppliers to connect and discuss current and future business and collaboration opportunities.

Day Two

The second day of the conference kicked off with the handing over of a $106,000 cheque to Rural Aid, a total raised by UCB members, that will support farmers affected by natural disasters through financial, wellbeing, and fodder assistance.

Anna Mcloughlin, Head of Digital at Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners (CCEP), discussed how retailers can best utilise on-demand delivery services in Australia, as well as which demographics are most likely to use the service and how to cater to them.

John Harvey, Head of Customer Category at CCEP, then took the stage to give an in-depth look at data that CCEP is using to help retailers provide the best and most profitable shopping experience. These included surveys as well as impressive eye-tracking data that gave a unique insight into how the layout of a store can affect the way customers shop.

Daniel Bone, Industry Insights Director at Circana, gave attendees a broader look at trends, insights, and the mindsets of Australian shoppers and how that is influencing Australian retail as a whole.  

These three speakers were then joined on stage by Corinne Barclay, Director at CMA, and Wesley Fairlie, for a panel discussion hosted by Nicola Richardson, General Manager of Retail, eComm, and Brand Partnerships at Asahi Beverages.

The panel delved into the importance of harnessing data and sharing it with the appropriate parties to assist retailers in providing the best experience for their customers. Despite being competitors off stage, the Asahi and CCEP representatives both agreed on the importance of the role that data will play now and in the future.

The panel concluded Wednesday’s business sessions and attendees then went to on to partake in one of the day’s six activities before meeting back at the Royal Pines’ pool for a CCEP sponsored ‘Full Moon’ dinner.

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