The UK food and drink sector had a turnover of £93.2bn in 2012, made up of 7,766 companies, which employ more than 406,000 people between them, according FoodDrinkEurope’s Data & Trends of the European Food and Drink Industry 2013 – 2014 report.
Germany’s turnover of £138.3bn is the largest in the EU, with France with £131.4bn and Italy with £106.2bn being the only countries ahead of the UK.
Spain has the fifth largest turnover (£73.8bn) and the most companies (29,196).
SMEs account for 99.1%
The EU food and drink industry is comprised of large companies and a high number of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The latter account for 99.1% of food and drink companies, FoodDrinkEurope claimed.
Overall, the turnover of all EU member states was £856.9bn, up 3.1% compared to 2011, making food and drink the largest manufacturing sector in the EU.
See our infographic of the top 10 EU member states ranked on their food and drink industry turnovers.
Employment was up 0.4% on 2011 figures to 4.2M people in the EU, making food and drink the leading employer in the manufacturing sector, the report stated.
Big businesses accounted for 48.4% of EU food and drink turnover, and 35.7% of employment in the sector.
America-based Cargill’s turnover of £86.8bn made it the biggest food business. The largest UK firm was Unilever with a turnover of £19.7bn.
Turnovers were evaluated for the year ending in 2012 (December 31 principally) or in 2013 (until June 30).
FoodDrinkEurope stated: “The EU food and drink industry is a pillar of the EU economy, outperforming a large number of other EU manufacturing sectors.
“However, notwithstanding its strong performance, notably during the current economic downturn, the EU continues to lag behind its main trading partners on research and development (R&D) investment and export market share.”
The EU food and drink industry has a lower R&D investment level compared to other food and drink industries worldwide, according to the report.
The world’s top 61 leading food and drink companies collectively invested £7.1bn in R&D in 2012, the report claimed. Out of these 61 companies, 17 were based in the EU and invested £1.9bn in 2012.
Japan, the US, Norway and Korea were all ahead of the EU for R&D private investment, according to the report.
Products that provide consumers with pleasure were the number one driver of innovation, which included products that appealed to all senses.
Consumer expectations, health, physical, convenience and ethics were the other key drivers behind innovation. Pleasure had a 57% share in 2013, FoodDrinkEurope claimed.
Please note, all figures in pounds sterling have been converted from euros.