Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss told the Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF’s) president’s Reception in central London this week (December 16) that she had prioritised persuading TV stations to step up their coverage of the industry.
“The more we can get the industry speaking out about [food and manufacturing] opportunities the better,” said Truss, who is Conservative MP for south west Norfolk. “One of the things I’m working on is media outlets. I saw Sky today (December 16) and the BBC a few weeks ago.
‘Visiting a food manufacturer’
“And I say to them, when you do your economic stories, when you talk about growth in the economy and when you talk about research and development, why don’t you think of visiting a food manufacturer?”
Truss urged television executives to visit food and drink manufacturers because they are “using the most cutting-edge technologies to showcase what Britain is doing and what Britain is achieving”.
The sector contributes £100bn to the UK economy and employs one in eight people in the national workforce, she said. “We all need to understand how vital food and farming are to the British economy.”
In addition to influencing programme makers, Truss said she took every opportunity to promote the sector to her cabinet colleagues. “One of the messages I’m keen to get across to my colleagues in government and beyond is how high tech and how exciting are the jobs that are available [in the sector] for young people to aspire to.”
The environment secretary disclosed that she was working with the FDF and others on a new campaign to be launched in the New Year to talk about the food industry degrees that are available to young people.
‘Over the next year or so’
The minister went on to raise eyebrows among her audience by appearing to time limit her association with the sector. Speaking without notes, Truss said: “I’m really looking forward to working with you over the next year or so to really take these ideas forward because we know how exciting the sector is …”.
As an example she cited level of robotics, innovation and engineering skills used by manufacturers such as Nestlé. Only this week, the business announced 150 new jobs at its Hatton coffee capsule factory in Derbyshire.
On exports, the minister reaffirmed the government’s pledge to install a food and agriculture specialist in Britain’s Bejing embassy to help boost the sale of food and drink products in China.
Meanwhile, during the reception outgoing president Richard Evans, president of PepsiCo West Europe & South Africa, handed over to his successor Fiona Kendrick, ceo of Nestlé UK and Ireland.