Blog: Dean BestUK food industry sets out 2020 vision

Dean Best | 13 December 2011

Off into central London within the next hour to hear more about how the UK's food industry believes it can deliver sustainable growth of 20% by 2020.

The Food and Drink Federation, the industry association for UK food and soft drink manufacturers, has commissioned financial services group Grant Thornton to identify how the sector can achieve that target - and what obstacles lie in the industry's path.

Far be it from this blog to take a pessimistic tone but it is perhaps more critical for you to hear just what Grant Thornton believes are the main barriers to the industry hitting that 20% growth.

Grant Thornton's research highlighted international competition. Rival food manufacturers in different countries are all targeting export markets and the FDF said many have "aggressive state-backed plans" to increase their market share in many of our target markets.

The firm also said the UK food industry will need at least 137,000 new recruits in the next five years but faces "significant skills shortages in essential disciplines".

Thirdly, and while not news to many of you, it is still a key challenge: Grant Thornton said manufacturers are operating in a competitive domestic business environment, with "increasingly volatile and in some cases artificially high commodity prices" making it difficult to maintain margins. Bank lending also remains hard to come by, hindering the ability of smaller businesses to "develop their export potential", the report said.

Grant Thornton also argued that the UK's regulatory and tax systems are acting as brakes on inward investment.

The FDF said the UK food sector has already put in place a number of intiatives to try to surmount these obstacles, including investment in training and the formation of a Food and Drink Export Forum, co-chaired by UK food and farming minister Jim Paice and FDF deputy president Paul Grimwood to develop a strategy to drive export growth.

And export markets will be key to achieving that growth target. Recent data showed UK food and drink exports are on the rise but there are a lot of untapped opportunities out there. If you want to share your investment plans overseas with us, email our news team via this address.


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