Director General of FDF
Being at the heart of the nation’s food and drink industry is a huge privilege. Occupying a deeply personal role for us as individuals, food and drink are pivotal to our society and our culture.
Equally, it is not always remembered that food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It makes an enormous economic contribution to our country, providing jobs for some 400,000 people and adding nearly £23bn in value to the UK economy each year.
Since 2009, productivity performance in food and drink has increased by 11%. Bringing the right people with the right skills into the business is central to our future success – the skills gap facing food and drink is not new but the need to close it has never been more urgent.
At the heart of each food and drink enterprise lie shoppers and consumers. In the UK, shoppers and consumers today enjoy access to a wider range of safe, high-quality and nutritious foods and drinks – at all price points – than ever before. The industry recognises that safety, quality and authenticity are the cornerstones of consumer confidence.
Of course issues about the nation’s health and wellbeing and the role of diet and nutrition remain centre stage. Our industry accepts its responsibility to play the fullest part in tackling obesity. That involves constantly reformulating products to remove fat, salt and sugar, marketing responsibly and promoting active healthy lifestyles.
Finally, we must address the biggest test to business of our time. The decision to leave the EU poses a major challenge to most food and drink businesses. Yet we are a resilient and resourceful industry.
We are now focused on transforming those very real risks into actual opportunities. We are already working with Government to secure the best possible future UK/EU relationship for food and drink and, more widely, to ensure that the operating environment for business here continues to be favourable.
There is much to be done but I am confident that UK food and drink can continue to be a success story of which we are all proud.