Its third-quarter survey showed that this year’s product launches had increased by about 500, signalling that the sector is on course to its growth target of 20% by 2020.
Angela Coleshill, FDF director of competitiveness, said: “Food and drink manufacturing is a strong growth area and we have just launched our vision to grow the sector by 20% by 2020. While members are cautious about the overall economic picture, their confidence in their growth strategies holds firm and they are pressing ahead with new product launches, research and development (R&D), capital investment and training.
“We are fortunate to be part of a resilient industry that appears to be withstanding the storms faced by other manufacturing sectors.”
Food and drink export sales strengthened as firms moved into new markets where demand for western goods has increased, according to the survey. Exports totalled £8.8bn during the first three quarters of this year; up 12% on the same period of last year when they topped the £10bn mark for the first time.
Of those surveyed, 72% reported an increase or static export sales in the third quarter.
24% of respondents predicted a fall during the next three months.
On the domestic market, 80% of respondents reported that sales were up or static. Also, 96% expected them to either rise or remain the same during the fourth quarter of this year.
Although key food commodity prices have fallen slightly, that has rarely been reflected in manufacturers’ costs. Nearly 70% of respondents reported an increase in their average costs during the quarter, with further rises expected in the final quarter.
Rising commodity prices
Respondents identified both rising commodity prices and increases in materials and fuel costs.
“Despite the on-going economic uncertainty, food manufacturers are continuing to grow their businesses,” according to an FDF statement. More than one third (36%) of those surveyed reported increased spending on R&D while 8% reported a fall. Nearly a half (48%) of respondents expected to invest in the fourth quarter of this year.
Developing employees’ skills attracted growing priority with 84% of firms expecting to invest more or the same in training during the third and fourth quarters of this year.
But the survey also revealed an 11% fall in business optimism from the second quarter of the year. Only 12% of respondents expressed ‘more optimism’ with concerns about the economy and the continuing European financial crisis.