The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has launched a forum for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to give them more of a voice to address industry issues.
The forum aims to deliver tailored industry information, briefings on key FDF issues, workshops, briefings and seminars on relevant topics and networking opportunities. A programme of events across the UK is planned for the next nine months, covering issues such as securing good insurance cover and crisis management.
The FDF has also established an SME advisory group, through which it will establish regular dialogue with smaller companies. A dedicated hotline and email inquiry service for SME members will also be set up. Speaking at the launch, FDF president Iain Ferguson, chairman of Tate & Lyle said: “In big companies you have always got someone to speak to - you just step into an office down the corridor. Smaller companies don’t have that.”
The forum is headed by Paul Freeston, FDF vice-president and chief executive of Apetito. He will also represent SMEs on the FDF’s executive committee, its main decision-making body.
A total of 85 people, representing 30 businesses attended the launch event, held at the Ramada Hotel, Bristol. The FDF said it hoped the forum would help it develop a mutually beneficial partnership with these smaller companies.
Ferguson said: “The forum will allow smaller companies to understand more about the FDF and we gain a lot by talking to people closer to the action than some of the larger companies.” The idea for the forum took a year to come to fruition, he said. “We represent the vast bulk of the turnover in the food industry, but we wanted to represent all food companies, large and small.”
He said the FDF wanted to work closely with the regional food groups in supporting smaller firms. “We see ourselves as complementing their work.”
Ferguson said there had been “a very positive response” to the launch from manufacturers, some of whom had shown an interest in becoming FDF members.
Research conducted on behalf of the FDF and presented at the event, which was co-hosted by regional food group South West Food and Drink, highlighted competitiveness and food safety as core issues for such firms. The impact of legislation was identified as another concern.