Food and drink sector summary

With such a diverse subsector, it’s not surprising that a large number of variables influence these metrics. For example, big brand food and drink processing and packing is a highly productive, automated process, but the growth of small-scale, relatively low-productivity artisan food and drink production dilutes this effect.

The 2008 financial crisis has little impact on the food and drink sector because of the market’s inbuilt resilience to recession. Domestic demand for products from the sector is consistent because products are necessary goods for individuals, and fierce competition in the grocery retail sector has kept prices down for consumers.

The subsector is split 84% food and 16% drink, with 25% of the food element being meat processing. And trade plays an important part: the UK is the world’s fourth largest food importer and the second largest drink importer. The EU is its largest export location, with 61% of all UK food and drink exports going there. The UK is a net importer of food and drink with a total import value of £46bn compared to a total export value of £23bn. The forthcoming Brexit trade negotiations have potentially huge impacts in this area. Access to both seasonal and full-time workers from the EU also has the potential to disrupt the subsector, with over a third of food and drink businesses saying they expect to have trouble accessing labour.

The food and drink manufacturing subsector has most of the same upcoming challenges as any other part of manufacturing: productivity, trade and skills. However, its ability to grow through these challenges is much better due to its inherent robustness and aggressive route to market.

Sheffield links with India

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has strengthened ties with India following a trade mission to the country . Ten delegates from organisations including the AMRC-based design consultancy Performance Engineered Solutions embarked on a five-day visit, where they linked with advanced manufacturing and academic organisations including the Automotive Research Authority of India, the Indian Institute of Technology and Pune College of Engineering.

It’s refreshing to see the AMRC looking beyond its normal EU- and China-focused activities. India has unique opportunities and challenges in the advanced manufacturing space. It’s also useful for the AMRC to see its model is not unique and that other countries also seek to support their indigenous manufacturers in similar ways.

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