With a workforce nearing half a million people and a footprint in every constituency of the United Kingdom, the country’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the representation for an industry of over 7,000 businesses of all types and sizes . At the helm, FDF’s President Gavin Darby with an extensive industry background supports the Federation through the next chapter of opportunities and challenges.

The FDF’s latest action item – the 2019 Food and Drink Manufacturer’s Manifestooffers a succinct look at the state of the industry, its challenges and key policies to be addressed between the FDF and the UK’s next government. Proud of the economic contribution the FDF makes to local communities across the country, the FDF wants to continue prioritising success for the workforce while offering safe, affordable, quality food and drink to a country of consumers. These industry developments must be met with equally innovative, bold and progressive policy.

A £121 billion UK food supply chain works together day in and day out to grow, produce, package, distribute and sell a range of high-quality food and drink around the globe. But as the industry evolves, global food systems and the UK policy are facing unprecedented pressures. The FDF must act to ensure stability in the UK’s policies that keep food systems resilient, competitive and productive with a focus on better jobs and increased sustainability for future generations.

Ahead of the December general election, the industry calls on the next UK government to champion the food and drink sector and support long-standing industry proposals. The FDF recommends that policymakers and candidates advance the UK’s F&D manufacturing sector in support of five key policy proposals:

Prioritise UK-EU trade relationship.

9th December 2019 “The food industry is resilient and adaptable,” says FDF President Gavin Darby, “but the biggest immediate challenge facing our industry is Brexit. With a no deal Brexit, the shockwave would be felt first and foremost in our industry and the impacts would be far-reaching.” A no-deal departure at any point would be the worst possible outcome for the UK’s food and drink industry – shoppers would face random shortages and exporters would be shut out of key markets.

Tax payers and companies have already spent tens of millions of pounds preparing for a no-deal Brexit three times in the last year, so it is vital for the government to work with industry proposals to ensure a transition that is stable for workers, distribution channels and consumers. Working with FDF in creating our future trade policies, the government would be insuring a sufficient “transition period” to adapt to new trade policies with the EU.

A quarter of the workforce – a whopping 106,000 employees – comes from outside of the UK in the EU. The
FDF asks for the government to work with industry and the FDF in building an immigration policy that
ensures easy access to the workers the industry needs without imposing burdens of bureaucracy or cost on

More than two thirds of the UK’s food and drink trade is with the EU27. Proximity is key for trade in limited shelf life products and for just-in-time supply chains, the government should prioritise the continued ability for industry to trade ingredients and finished goods to the EU27 without friction – no tariffs, quotas or non- tariff barriers, no product checks and no inspections at the border.

Secure dynamic regulatory equivalence with the EU and continued access to expertise from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are also necessary for a new era of trade policies between the UK and the EU.

Tackle obesity and other dietary concerns.

The FDF committed to supporting the UK government’s ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030, demonstrating a commitment as a responsible partner in the country’s health initiatives. Gavin Darby calls the “global issue of obesity … a challenge for responsible companies … [as well as] a distinct opportunity for companies to work with industry leaders and policy-makers to find new solutions.”

Since 2015, the FDF’s members are selling 4.4 million fewer kilograms of salt, 57.3 million fewer kilograms of sugar, 35.5 million less kilograms of total fat and 1 trillion fewer calories. The FDF plans on taking bold steps and recommends for the next UK government to continue innovating along with industry through updates in demographic analysis, consumption policies, reformulation programmes and investment in funding for smaller businesses. Tackling the country’s dietary concerns and obesity requires a holistic and evidence-based partnership with governmental policies and programmes that reflect the real lifestyles and demographics of the UK.

Make food production and consumption more environmentally sustainable.

The Food and Drink Federation’s Ambition 2025 sets out ideas for a “thriving, responsible and sustainable food and drink industry” in the UK. The FDF targets water usage, packaging, food waste and logistics, and is committed to refreshing these initiatives as trends evolve and needs grow within the sector.

As UK government to brings forward the policies needed to meet these new challenging targets, the FDF hopes to help alongside in building a more circular economy. A focus on transformation within the industry – from the ingredients used and products made, to how they are packaged and transported – must meet the correct sequencing of future government action in order to secure the optimum outcomes for our environment while continuing to champion the industry.

As the former CEO of one of the UK’s largest food producers, Premier Foods, Gavin Darby has pledged sustainability through FDF’s initiatives .“We’ve continued to make good progress against each of the Five- fold Environmental Ambition objectives,” said Darby in the 2014 FDF Progress Report which featured Premier Foods. “I’m particularly proud that we achieved our target of sending zero waste to landfill two years early, driving both environmental and cost benefits.”

Through his years as Premier Foods CEO, as a member of the Food and Drink Sector Council, and during his tenure as FDF president, Darby has worked in partnership with industry leaders and government policy makers to make the UK’s food and drink industry more resilient, sustainable and competitive.

Invest in our proposals to drive export growth and innovation.

In a sector with a footprint in every constituency and an industry that boasts 19% of the country’s total manufacturing, the FDF is dedicated to transforming the industry with proposals would help boost productivity growth, exports and higher value employment, while delivering social and environmental benefits for the UK.

The next UK government should recommit to the Food and Drink Sector Council as the lead vehicle to drive a productive partnership between government, manufacturers and the whole food supply chain.

The FDF and industry experts want a government commitment to co-invest in specialist support to take advantage of export growth opportunities along with a programme to support productivity growth in SMEs by encouraging increased uptake of automation.

Alongside the work of the Food and Drink Sector Council and a new, comprehensive National Food
Strategy, co-investment would ensure:

  •  Shoppers and consumers have continued great choice and quality products.
  •  Manufacturers have the certainty and confidence to invest for the long-term.
  •  The next generation benefits from better, higher-skilled jobs in every part of the UK. Together, with the combined power of industry and government , the UK can move forward proposals to build a long-term vision for food, farming and fisheries which boosts productivity and unlocks the industry’s full potential.

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