Are you ready to build a great brand?

Meet the Grocery Accelerator Team.

The programme is led by a team with more than 50 years combined experience in building some of the UK’s leading retail brands in food and drink.


Paddy Willis from the Grocery Accelerator

Paddy Willis


Paddy was co-founder of Plum Baby, the world’s first premium baby food in the ambient sector.

One of the UK’s fastest-growing new food businesses, the company was listed in over 2,500 supermarket stores within twelve months of launch, achieved 5% market share within 2 years and was a finalist for the New Product Launch category in the Marketing Society’s annual awards, just losing out to Magners Cider!

Plum was sold to Darwin Private Equity within year five on sales nudging £14 million at retail.

As someone passionate about enterprise, Paddy has since been involved in a range of grocery and tech start-ups, variously as advisor, mentor, CEO or investor. He built the incubator Bathtub 2 Boardroom into one of London’s most respected centres for start-up support for entrepreneurs from all manner of sectors and backgrounds.

Rob from the Grocery Accelerator

Rob Ward


Rob built one of the largest fruit businesses in the UK, supplying national supermarkets such as M&S, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.

Following the success of this business, he created and built two Farm Retail businesses that both became nationally regarded as leading examples of food retailing.

He sold these businesses to private equity in 2009 and now uses his unique understanding of both production and retailing to help food producers develop new products and grow their businesses. Rob has travelled the world researching the latest ideas for food businesses.

He is renowned for his practical and comprehensive understanding of the food market and how to create and grow businesses in this sector.

Paddy Willis from the Grocery Accelerator

John Stapleton

NED / Investor

Our non-executive Director, John Stapleton is an entrepreneur, business thought leader, CEO and Board Director. He has set up three successful consumer branded businesses and has over 25 years’ experience in creating and building brands in the FMCG sector in both the UK and the USA.

John actively manages a Non-Executive Director portfolio and consults to the food and beverage industry. He provides advice, guidance and mentoring to a variety of entrepreneurs and owner-CEOs of growth businesses in the FMCG sector. John solves the typical problems and challenges that brand owners encounter in this sector in scaling and growing their businesses.

In 1987 John co-founded the New Covent Garden Soup Co Ltd., which pioneered and grew the fresh soup category in the UK. In 1998 he co-founded Glencoe Foods Inc., bringing the fresh soup concept to the United States. On returning to Europe, John established a consumer branded food consultancy and has worked with a number of clients across the FMCG sector in the UK, US and Europe. He has worked with a wide range of companies including large corporations as well as numerous start-up and growth-phase businesses. In 2005, John co-founded Little Dish which supplies fresh, healthy, natural and convenient meals to children over 1 year. Little Dish created and established the chilled toddler food category, has full national UK High Street retailer distribution and is the dominant brand in chilled toddler food (73% market share).


Simon from the Grocery Accelerator

Simon Lacey


Co-founder of GA, runs Idea to Shelf Ltd; Former Commercial Director Lilly’s Kitchen & Sales Director Plum Baby.


Simon is the founder of – Idea To Shelf Ltd, a business specialising in helping high potential SME food & drinks businesses with unique ideas to bring a product to market, offering tailored flexible and personal support.

Uniquely Simon has over 21 years worth of experience in senior sales & marketing positions that vary significantly in scale and by sector. From large multinationals such as Colgate & Carlsberg through to fast growing premium brands such as Kettle Chips, Plum Baby & Lily’s Kitchen, Simon has an outstanding track record of bringing brands to market and helping to step-change performance at the sharp end. His expertise covers strategic planning, negotiating with suppliers, building powerful business plans & trade presentations as well as personal coaching,

Joanna Walker from the Grocery Accelerator

Joanna Walker

Trading Manager

Jo is a food retail expert; with extensive experience gained over 20 years in Buying, National account management, Product Development and Marketing roles at Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and a private label bakery manufacturer. 

Throughout her career, Jo has managed food categories worth over £400m in sales turnover, developed numerous category plans and award-winning private label products and led marketing strategies and research plans aimed at delivering profitable growth. Currently, Jo is the lead business mentor for the Irish Food Board’s UK Market Entry Programme since January 2015 and works with many SME’s and start-up businesses and on accelerator programmes as well as providing strategic business planning, sales and marketing support to more established food businesses.

Sandra Boualleg

Louis Bedwell

Operations Manager

Has worked in support of start-ups for five years and was Community Manager at incubator Bathtub2Boardroom.

Paddy Willis from the Grocery Accelerator

Simon Taylor


Former CFO of Heinz Asia. Provides freelance FD support. 

Grocery Accelerator Ltd, Company number 08831331. Registered office: Sustainable Bankside 105 Sumner St, London SE1 9HZ - 020 7294 7692 - Website by Liam Morgan