FDF aims for 20% food and drink growth by 2020

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drink exports European union United kingdom International trade Uk

Food and drink exports are key to achieving the target of 20% growth by 2020
Food and drink exports are key to achieving the target of 20% growth by 2020
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is confident that its ambition to grow the UK’s food and drink manufacturing sector by 20% by 2020 will not be blown off course by prime minister David Cameron’s decision to veto changes to the EU treaty last Friday (December 9).

In a joint vision between the FDF and government being launched today (December 13), great emphasis is placed on growing food and drink exports to achieve the 20% aim. However, many commentators have publicly expressed fears recently that Cameron’s veto will marginalise the UK internationally, reducing its ability to exercise power in trade within the EU and with the rest of the world.

Some manufacturing groups have also expressed fears that the ability to influence food and drink regulation within the EU in favour of the UK – an area of particular concern to the food industry – will be substantially reduced following the events of last week.

Validity

But the FDF said it does not share these fears. “This​ [vision] will still have validity after what we have seen,” ​said FDF communications director Terry Jones. He argued that any changes in our relationship with EU wouldn’t prevent the UK government organisation UK Trade & Investment from supporting the food and drink sector in its ambition.

At the end of the day, the 20% is built on the drivers and the ambition of the industry … Fundamentally, I don’t believe enough has changed to dampen the vision that we can achieve 20% growth by 2020​,” added Jones.

Britain’s food and drink exports have increased in each of the past six years, with exports to the continent being particularly important. Last year exports to France alone reached £1.3bn, while exports to Ireland – the UK’s largest export market – have also grown strongly. Exports of food and soft drinks globally are expected to top £11bn this year, assisted by favourable exchange rates.

Despite it growing exports by 5.4% year-on-year between 2000 and 2010, the UK has lost market share as world exports grew 10% year-on-year. As a result, the UK is likely to face increasing competition in the future, according to a study for the industry carried out by accountancy firm Grant Thornton.

In addition to unlocking the potential of the industry in key areas such as securing new export markets, the joint vision also aims to ensure that the food and drink industry can attract and retain the skills and talent it needs over the next few years, including in critical areas such as food scientists and engineers.

Before the news emerging from Brussels, environment secretary Caroline Spelman had said: “There are going to be huge opportunities for Britain’s food industry to supply an increasingly hungry world in coming years and sell high quality products to emerging markets.

Competitiveness

“That’s why alongside manufacturers we’re leading a range of strategies, focused on competitiveness, to drive economic growth. 2020 is a welcome project that will fully complement all the ambitious work we’re doing.”

FDF director general Melanie Leech said: “Research undertaken for FDF by Grant Thornton has helped us identify the major opportunities and barriers to our growth. It is clear that our industry has formidable strengths: product quality, branding and our ability to innovate are among our key competitive advantages both in the domestic market and abroad.

“UK food and drink manufacturing companies already have an excellent track record in these areas and a high reputation for quality and we have used these as the base to develop our vision.”

The Grant Thornton study also reported that during the recession, profit margins had been squeezed, especially for small- and medium-size manufacturers. Firms surveyed called for a “more positive regulatory environment to overcome challenges domestically and improve their competitiveness internationally”.

For more information about the vision, click here​.

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