At Food Manufacture’s Business Leaders’ Forum in London last month, Sian Holt, managing director of confectionery and snacks supplier Fudge Kitchen said the company had lost business because of fears about Brexit.
Holt told Food Manufacture: “In terms of the loss of potential business, uncertainty with Brexit has been a reason why we have not gone forward this past year since first meeting a German distributor at [Cologne international confectionery and snacks trade show] ISM. We have also lost business this last year with an existing German customer entirely due to Brexit.”
She said she also had no idea what reception her company, and other UK food firms, would have this year at ISM, which is the first international finished product exhibition to occur after Brexit takes place on 31 January. The event is due to run on 2–5 February.
The UK will remain in a transition period until 31 December this year, with EU trade terms staying the same over the course of that period. However, Holt and other BLF delegates said any potential long-term contracts were hard to establish if the nature of the UK’s trade deal with the EU was undecided.
Richard Clothier, managing director of cheese producer Wyke Farms, said it traded significantly with the EU, with 10% of its sales volumes coming from France alone. However, the company was building business elsewhere that he hoped would cushion it from the effects of Brexit. “A lot of our growth is now from outside the EU,” he said.
Tougher negotiating stance
He stressed the UK would have to toughen its negotiating stance, especially if the final EU trade agreement entailed zero tariffs on many EU products, as some feared. “The UK hasn’t done as well as some EU partners outside the EU. We’re going to have to adopt an export mindset.”
However, Clive Black, director of research at Shore Capital, suggested suppliers should seize on the opportunity Brexit offered to invest closer to home.
“There’s a bigger opportunity to increase domestic supply,” said Black. “The UK is far from self-sufficient. Import substitution would be a bigger opportunity.”