The UK food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the country employing around four million people and generating approximately £121 billion annually. In UK food manufacturing alone, SMEs account for 22% of turnover (just under £22 billion) and 33% of employment, with around 2.8 million workers*. However, owners, managers and workers within those SMEs have never been under such macro-economic pressures – and the effects are impacting how both companies and individuals within these businesses operate.

Recognising that many smaller companies don’t have structured training and development programs, and that many leaders are mostly learning on the job, Eden’s 2024 Emerging Leaders programme will focus on supporting the talented people that steer, shape and drive those businesses. The aim of the initiative is to help those individuals realise their full potential so they can continue to make an impact on and a genuine difference to the industry we all feel so passionate about.

*Source: May 2023

What’s on offer?

A training budget of up to £3,000 has been allocated to put towards one individual’s leadership development in the industry. This person will also have the opportunity of up to four hours of mentoring with industry sector specialists (Founders, CEOs, Senior leaders in the industry) for coaching and advice on the next phase of their careers within the 12 months following January 2024.

Who is eligible to apply?

  • Individuals with more than five years’ experience working within an SME (sub £15m turnover) in food manufacturing, fresh food or agritech sectors in the UK or internationally.
  • Individuals who can demonstrate experience in senior management position(s); and
  • Individuals who have experienced rapid career progression and have a clear view of the external support they require to continue their trajectory into leadership/board positions.

How do you apply?

All applicants should send in their CV and a maximum 500-word summary, answering the following key questions:

  • What are the challenges you would like to solve within the industry?
  • What training / development would you need to achieve this?
  • Why will this make a difference to you and the industry in the longer term?

All applicants must confirm they are supported by their company ‘sponsor’ e.g. line manager and / or HRDs when they make their application (including in respect of time out of their businesses if they are successful in the process). Successful applicant sponsors will have the opportunity to review and approve the mentor list at the start of the program to ensure no conflict of interest.

The deadline for applications is 23:59 on 19th November 2023. Applications to be emailed to

What happens after the application deadline?

An independent panel, led by Richard Macdonald, will review all applications by the end of November 2023 and then shortlist three applicants for a 30-minute interview during early December 2023.  The decisions of the panel are final.

After the interviews, one person will be selected for the award and one other shortlisted candidate will be enrolled for a standalone mentoring programme of up to four hours to support their work in industry during 2024.

The small print:

  • All applicants will receive an email confirmation from by 22nd November 2023 to confirm that their application has been received. If you do not receive an email, it is your responsibility to obtain confirmation of receipt.
  • Each application should adhere to the requirements stated above.
  • All applicants will receive an email from by the end of November 2023 to confirm whether or not they have been successful in shortlisting for interview.
  • Three shortlisted applicants will be contacted by phone for an interview in early December 2023. The interviews will be held by video call and will be arranged by the Emerging Leaders program team at the end of November 2023.
  • Successful applicants will be notified by phone by 23rd December 2023.
  • Mentoring will run from mid-January 2024 until 31st December 2024.
  • Email contact details of the mentors will be shared with the successful applicants who will be responsible for arranging the agreed sessions with the mentors within 2024.
  • The applicant selected to receive the training fund will receive funds up to the value of £3,000 electronically within 30 days of receipt by Eden Search and Select of satisfactory proof of payment for the training identified in their application. Payment of sums from the fund is conditional upon satisfactory proof of payment being received before the end of December 2024.
  • Each successful applicant will be required to participate in a 30-minute recorded case study interview by the end of December 2024. This will be used for future promotion of the Emerging Leaders program on appropriate channels including PR, social and digital.
  • Each successful applicant will be invited to leadership networking events hosted by Eden over the course of the year, which will provide them with the opportunity to meet with other industry leaders.

2023 Case Study:

Eden launched its inaugural Emerging Leaders campaign in 2023, providing training and mentoring to three talented industry executives: Dr Ruth Bastow, Innovation Director for CHAP; Miranda Beebe, Head of Volunteer Management at Trussell Trust; and Dr Lisa Morgans is Head of Livestock for i4Agri. Find out further details of last year’s programme here.