More support is needed from government to tackle the skills shortage in the food and drink industry, a new report by the Food & Drink Federation has urged.

A combination of an ageing workforce and uncertainty over the impact of Brexit mean attracting talent to the industry has never been more urgent, stated a report commissioned by the FDF and produced by Grant Thornton.

The report – The Food And Drink Industry: Economic contribution and growth opportunities – is officially launched tonight (10 June) at a parliamentary reception, where Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary Michael Gove and his shadow counterpart Sue Hayman will speak.

The report says perceptions of the industry make it difficult to attract people, while potential employees do not see the industry as “high-tech and with a wide range of fulfilling careers on offer”, instead opting to join other manufacturing industries.

Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over access to EU workers, who make up 32.5% of the industry’s skilled and highly skilled workforce.

Only a third of manufacturers surveyed said they felt apprenticeships would fill the gap left behind by EU workers, and the FDF said further support was needed from government to increase the apprentice workforce in food and drink. This should include investment to ensure education providers have the equipment and capacity to help bridge the skills gap.

“Similarly, any new immigration policy must prioritise food and drink as the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and allow new workers from the EU to enter our sector,” stated the report.

Other recommendations for government in the report include:

  • Enhancing the image of the food and drink industry and raising awareness of the range of career opportunities on offer.
  • Working with industry to reduce product sugar levels and taking an holistic approach to calorie reformulation.
  • Further facilitating innovation through support for fundamental and applied research.

The FDF also called on government to encourage more food and drink manufacturers to export to help grow the UK’s 2.2% share of the global food and drink export market. This should include working with industry to increase specialist export support for food and drink and identifying distributors in untapped markets.

“The issues facing the food and drink industry are complex, but if we find the right solutions there is great reward - not just for our sector and the wider economy,” said FDF director general Ian Wright. “We believe a new sector deal, working in partnership with government and the ‘farm-to-fork’ supply chain, will harness this potential.”

The Food Export Conference

Businesses keen to tap export opportunities should make a date in their diary to attend a new event organised by British Baker in partnership with sister titles Food Manufacture and Meat Trades Journal.

The Food Export Conference has been designed to arm delegates with best practice advice from trade experts and British businesses enjoying success overseas. The one-day event will be held at Ardencote Manor, Warwickshire, on Thursday, 5 October 2017.

Speakers include: Adam Buckley, international sales director at Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods; Ed Wright, export director for Cranswick; Richard Clothier of Wyke Farms; and Paul Baker, director of Carrs Foods.

To register for the Food Export Conference, visit Register before Tuesday, 20 July for an early bird delegate rate of £328.00 + VAT.

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Samantha White on or call her on 01293 846571.