Conferences of all shapes and sizes claim to have a stellar line-up of speakers but, on the odd occasion, an event’s schedule does fit the bill. And today (13 October) in London is one of those occasions.

To mark the 100th anniversary of UK grocery retailing body IGD, chief executives from Tesco to Morrisons and from Unilever to Cadbury will give their thoughts on how their companies are riding out the downturn – and suggest how others in the industry can provide consumers value and continue to invest in their businesses for the future.

As head of the UK’s largest grocer, Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy is handily placed to put forward how retailers and suppliers can move forward through the downturn and grow for the years ahead. Tesco’s international operations are motoring along nicely, particularly in Asia, and last week Leahy expressed satisfaction with Fresh & Easy, the retailer’s fledgling US venture. 

However, Tesco continues to face fierce competition in the UK and is now up against at four rivals looking in good nick. And despite the Tesco boss’s claims last week that the company is now outpacing its competition, rivals including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons would no doubt beg to differ.

Morrisons chief executive Marc Bolland, who is set to close the conference, is likely to outline how his company has published quarter over quarter of robust sales and has set out plans to expand throughout the UK. In between Leahy and Bolland, Peter Marks, the head of fellow UK retailer The Co-operative Group will speak as the company continues to expand through the Somerfield takeover – and in the wake of the robust half-year sales and profits published yesterday.

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It’s not just retailers laying out their riding-out-the-downturn blueprints. Just nine months into his stint at the helm of Knorr-soup-to-Wall’s-ice-cream giant, Unilever, Paul Polman will talk delegates through how he has guided the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate through the recession.

Unilever has had a mixed 2009. Price cuts helped Unilever revive volume growth in the second quarter of the year and, although operating profit was down, analysts have expressed confidence in Polman’s strategy.

And, thus far, the investment community has – broadly – given its backing to Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer’s belief that the UK confectionery giant promises more as an independent company.

Given the recent media furore over comments Stitzer (pictured) may or may not have made to a group of analysts in London, the Cadbury boss is unlikely to reveal too much about his current throughts on the interest from Kraft Foods. Nevertheless, given Cadbury’s success in a resilient chocolate market, Stitzer’s afternoon turn at the podium will prove of interest.

just-food will be reporting live from the event. Be sure to check our pages – including our Twitter feed – throughout the day for the latest news and views.