Speaking exclusively to the Food Manufacture Group, new FDF director general Ian Wright explained why food and drink manufacturers needed a council to help realise their full potential contribution to the UK economy. A world-leading industrial sector, UK food and drink manufacturing employed about 400,000 directly across the UK and contributed £21.5bn of gross value added to the national economy each year.
“The FDF wants the new government to place food and drink at the heart of its industrial policy; this should be done through the establishment of a dedicated food and drink manufacturing council,” said Wright.
‘Unlock huge shared value’
“This council would unlock huge shared value through greater collaboration and policy alignment to meet the needs of the sector and society – for example developing the domestic skills-base or targeting innovation to tackle environmental and public health challenges.”
The request follows a suggestion from former FDF president Richard Evans that the food and drink manufacturing sector would benefit from an industry council, similar to the car industry’s Automotive Council. Such a council would ensure a “continuous conversation with government”, stronger public voice and foster innovation, Evans told the FDF President’s Dinner guests on April 30 last year.
Food manufacturing council
“The FDF wants the new government to place food and drink at the heart of its industrial policy; this should be done through the establishment of a dedicated food and drink manufacturing council.”
- Ian Wright
The food and drink manufacturing sector’s potential and appetite for growth was considerable, said Wright. “The FDF’s ambition is to achieve sustainable sector growth of 20% by 2020. FDF’s latest food and non-alcoholic drink export figures show year-on-year growth, bucking the total UK exports trend. However there is huge untapped opportunity for UK companies in other markets.”
Attract the best talent
To boost the productivity, manufacturers needed a stable regulatory environment, which gives them the confidence and capacity to invest, he added. For our industry to grow and remain competitive in the global marketplace we need to attract the best talent and build a highly skilled workforce.
The next government was also urged to provide support for voluntary frameworks for action to enable the setting of a common direction on issues faster than a legislative approach would allow. Such frameworks would also foster collaboration.
- Food and drink manufacturing council
- Stable regulatory environment
- Voluntary frameworks for action
The success of such collaborative ventures was demonstrated by the FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition to meet the target of a 35% absolute reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, said Wright. This was achieved six years ahead of schedule.
Regarding obesity, FDF members recognised the scale and complexity of the challenge and have responded by developing healthier options, providing on-pack nutrition information and investing in physical activity, in support of broader health initiatives, he added.
“Our members are playing their part and we anticipate continuing to work constructively with government and other partners to encourage healthier, more sustainable behaviours over the long-term,” said Wright.
The FDF’s Manufacturers’ Dinner takes place in London tonight (April 30).
Meanwhile, political commentators have questioned whether the next government will retain the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or, in a cash-saving bid, close it and hive off its responsibilities to other departments.
Co-chaired by former business secretary Vince Cable, the Automotive Council was established in 2009 to “enhance dialogue and strengthen co-operation between UK government and the automotive sector”.