That's according to Food Manufacture's 2019 R&D Market Report, sponsored by Markel Tax, the first in a series of studies launched by the brand.
The data reveals that Unilever spent an impressive £809m globally on R&D in the year ended 31 December 2018, the largest tranche of cash allocated to the area by some margin. The next largest sum – £42.3m – was spent by Arla Foods.
The report, which has been issued to core print subscribers and has been made available for digital download from today (11th September), contains a full breakdown of R&D expenditure for the UK's biggest food and drink manufacturers. Companies have been ranked by latest available annual turnover, derived from annual reports or results figures from Companies House.
The exclusive research also contains sections on key investment trends, including plant-based foods, packaging, reformulation and automation.
There are also three case studies from Arla Foods, Moy Park and Bakkavor, in which a key figure from each business speaks to Food Manufacture about its current approach to R&D.
"With so much uncertainty still surrounding Brexit and the 31 October deadline rapidly approaching, some might argue there are more pressing concerns than an in-depth analysis of R&D trends," said Food Manufacture editor Rod Addy.
Perspective from top 15 manufacturers
"The reality is that the best time to be prioritising R&D is often the hardest time to factor it into budgets. It's all about perspective. So what are the top 15 UK food and drink manufacturers by turnover investing in? That's what this report sets out to answer."
Publication of the report was sponsored and supported by Markel Tax. Readers interested in the research can download it for free.