Business Leaders' Forum

Food firms are optimistic despite sector challenges

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Business Leaders’ Forum – organised by the Food Manufacture Group – showcased the optimism in the food and drink sector, despite Brexit and international challenges, according to sponsor DWF, but raised more questions than answers, said Charpak, another sponsor of the event.

Dominic Watkins, partner with host sponsor DWF, said: “I think it’s fantastic to see the optimism in the sector and to see the way the sector is ready for the future; seizing on the chaos that Brexit’s presented us with, and the challenges we see in the international plain; the Trump situation ​[for example] – the world of alternative facts, as it’s now known.

“Labour shortages still seem to be right at the top of people’s thought processes. Of course there are other societal challenges like the obesity strategy and Apprenticeship Levy that are going to really play a part, as well as market access.”

‘Societal challenges’

Speaking after the event last month, Watkins joined representatives from other sponsors RSA Global Consulting, Charpak and ALS Food and Pharmaceutical in describing the highlights of the forum in this video.

Watkins’ sense of optimism was also noted by RSA Global Consulting deputy director Martin Turner. He said: “I think that whilst we’re in a political and economic environment of uncertainty, that brings opportunities as well as challenges.”

Charpak sales director Justin Kempson said the food and drink industry was “in the dark”​ about where the sector would be in three years’ time.

‘A lot of questions’

“There are a lot of questions still ​ certainly on Brexit,”​ said Kempson. “What impact it will have on food manufacturing? What impact it will have on staffing levels? Where are we going to get our staff from? So, it actually opened far more questions than gave answers.”

ALS Food and Pharmaceutical sales and marketing director Nigel Richards agreed there were still more answers needed over Brexit.

Richards said: “I think there is a great deal of uncertainty about the way in which the food industry is going to respond to ​[Brexit] in 2017. ​[There are] a lot of questions still to be answered.”

The Business Leaders’ Forum was staged on January 24, at the DWF offices in London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ building. The event was chaired by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink chair Paul Wilkinson.

Business Leaders’ Forum 2017 sponsors

  • DWF
  • ALS Food and Pharmaceutical
  • RSA Global Consulting
  • Charpak

Related topics: People, Brexit Debate

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