Food Business Leaders’ Summit – in quotes

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European food safety, Management, Director

Food and drink industry leaders met at the Institute of Directors this week to compare notes on the prospects for 2012
Food and drink industry leaders met at the Institute of Directors this week to compare notes on the prospects for 2012
The health of UK food and drink manufacturing, government intervention in the industry and the struggling organic sector were just three of the hot topics at Food Manufacture’s Business Leaders' Summit. Here is a flavour, captured in quotes, of the conference that attracted food and drink industry leaders from throughout the UK and beyond.

Geoff Eaton​, formerly ceo Uniq

“It does no harm to go through your business plan as if you were planning to sell the company. It focuses your mind on absolutely everything you do. If you expect to be due-diligenced to death, it will lead to a much stronger business. Company boards are generally too forgiving.”

Mark Lynch, ​director Windyridge Cheese

“Private equity is talked about a lot. But many ​[investors/private equity firms] are struggling to exit historic investments because of the pension fund issue. Many are interested in branded businesses because they see them as safe.”

Paul Wilkinson​, Business Leaders Summit​ chairman and chairman of the National Skills Academy

“During 2011, sustainability took a lower profile as firms looked for sustainability that delivered business opportunity.”

Sion Roberts​, commercial director EFFP

"We have to improve resource productivity throughout the entire supply chain."

Lise Madsen​, md HoneyRose Bakery

“You are not going to buy something you don’t understand. There’s a clear lack of understanding​ [about organic produce].”

Philip Wilkinson​, director 2 Sisters

“Consumers are making Exocet choices. When they see a chicken priced at £2.99 compared with an organic chicken at £8.99, and they can’t taste the difference, they’ll buy the £2.99 one and​ [save money to] have a holiday in Benidorm.”

Paul Berryman​, ceo Leatherhead Food Research

“There’s definitely a shift towards softer claims rather than harder scientific claims because of EFSA​ [European Food Safety Authority] rulings.”

David Webber​, senior partner and md PA Europe

“Brussels is good at creating the architecture ​[of food legislation] but doesn’t have the infrastructure to go in and do the enforcement. The enforcement is quite variable and that creates trade distortions. But persuading the authorities ​[Brussels] to adopt infringement proceedings is difficult.”

David Williams,​ md Butt Foods

“One of the biggest challenges is raising money to fund capital investment.”

Paul Fieldhouse​, chairman Bryt

“It’s about how quickly brand owners can engage with purchasers at the point of purchase.”

Steve Roger​, md Lauras International

“Everyone is very focused on labour costs. But there’s a bigger opportunity to drive cost out of the business by cutting waste.”

Dean McKenna​, director Mill Point Partnership

“Strong leaders, often the founder of the business, can stifle leadership below. The capability to devolve leadership​ [within the firm] is very important.”

Peter Pickthall​, HR director R&R Ice Cream

“Schools don’t help the​ [skills gap] situation because they seem to think that working in manufacturing is not the place for their students and they seem to be putting them off.

“Migrant labour is an excellent workforce that comes to work every day.We have employed migrant labour from eastern Europe who have come in at low level but grow and become managers.”

Jon Poole​, ceo Institute of Food Science & Technology

“There’s still a lot to be done in making people in colleges and schools aware of what opportunities are available in food and drink manufacturing.”

Watch out next week for our podcast interview with Jon Poole who explains how food and drink manufacturers can attract young talent.

Meanwhile, in an informal vote at the end of the summit, the overwhelming majority of delegates said they were more optimistic about the business prospects for this year than they were at the start of 2011.

To read delegates views on government intervention in the UK food and drink sector, click here.

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