Appetite for Global Success

Publication Details

Launched on 2nd November, ResPublica’s report Appetite for Global Success looks at the importance and strength of the Food and Drink manufacturing sector and its role in the entire food chain, with the contribution to jobs, exports and economic footprint across the UK, including representing 17% of all manufacturing and 6.7% of exports. It outlines the challenges and opportunities for the sector, as well as how the Industrial Strategy can support the industry.

The report provides new analysis on the sector’s importance and extensive economic footprint across the UK for jobs, growth and rebalancing. F&D is a sixth of UK manufacturing, employs 400,000 and produces nearly 7% of exports. Despite this, F&D has largely been omitted from the Industrial Strategy. A decisive focus must be established to maintain and grow jobs and exports, and drive productivity. A decade ago, Scotland did this and has seen turnover increase 44% and exports 56%.

A dedicated mission through the Industrial Strategy should also be set to meet the demands of global food consumption now worth $8 trillion – production must increase 60% by 2050 to meet the appetites of a predicted nine billion people. It must also seek to address a global obesity crisis – the NHS spends £16 billion a year on obesity – and deliver sustainable production and harness new technologies. Resource efficiency and sustainability are also huge challenges, from energy and water use to the impact of waste.

The report argues that the ambition for the F&D manufacturing sector must be to meet these global demands, producing sustainable and healthier food, harnessing and developing new technologies including industry 4.0, and creating world-beating products. This ambition should be translated through the Industrial Strategy, the Government’s foremost economic policy frame, and with a sector approach.

The report provides new analysis on the importance and wide economic footprint of F&D manufacturing across the UK, including within regions, and for jobs, growth and rebalancing. This ‘dispersed nature’ sets the sector apart and the report calls for a dedicated approach to reflect this. The sector faces barriers to growth and the report assess these through new perspectives – through the eyes of industry anchors – primes, and through institutions, national, regional and local, needed to support the sector. While parts of the food pipeline, such as agriculture, have a dedicated focus, such as through Catapults (innovation scalers), F&D manufacturing faces an institutional deficit and lack of focus. New data found that the economic plans of three-quarters of Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) feature food and drink but with few policy actions and co-ordination to support the industry.

The report also outlines the implications of Brexit for the sector and the needs for Industrial Strategy co-ordination – the EU bought more than 70 per cent of UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports last year.

Jake Sumner lead report author and Associate Director of ResPublica, said:

“The UK must take the opportunities ahead. We can be at the forefront of manufacturing healthier, sustainable food to meet the increasing global food demand and tackle the £16bn obesity crisis. This can be a powerful identity and opportunity post-Brexit, delivering increased productivity, investment, growth, exports and skilled jobs. But, there needs to be a dedicated focus within the Industrial Strategy and a mission-orientated approach to innovation funding. A mission for healthier food will also help improve the status of the industry and attract new talent alongside improving workplace participation which spreads innovation through what we call employee voice deals. 

“Industrial strategy has suffered from piecemeal actions and short-termism. Our report outlines ways to build on the Government’s industrial approach with more certainty for businesses and sectors, more political consensus on long-term approaches and address the institutional deficit for food and drink.”

John Stevenson MP for Carlisle and Chair of the APPG for Food and Drink Manufacturing said:

“In this country we have excellent food production standards, real strength in research, and many successful food and drink businesses – including in my own constituency of Carlisle. It is important that our food and drinks industry thrives and this report provides insights into how this can be achieved for the future. Part of the solution has to be greater co-ordination across Government and within the industry itself. Clearly there is an opportunity to create even more world-beating products in the food and drink sector. Our high-quality food reputation benefits UK exports and the British label inspires customers in emerging markets to purchase our products. It is crucial that this is built on for the continued success of the industry.” 

Angela Smith MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, and member of the EFRA Select Committee said:

“Food and drink manufacturing contributes massively to local economies providing thousands of jobs. From farm to fork we often focus on farming and I wear my British Farming badge with pride but we can also forget our manufacturing industry. We need to have pride in this too, as ResPublica’s report outlines, and build on, not weaken standards, through Brexit.” 

Ian Rayson, Corporate Communications Director at Nestlé UK and Ireland said:

“Nestlé welcomes this report by ResPublica, which highlights the enormous opportunity in the food and drink industry for growth, skilled job creation and rebalancing the economy.

Nestlé has supported ResPublica’s work because a successful UK industrial strategy is essential for our industry and the wider economy.”

  • Thomas Nguyen

    Policy & Projects Manager

    Thomas joined ResPublica in 2016, having completed his Master’s degree in Foreign Policy at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Prior to this Thomas worked for over a year in public affairs handling corporate accounts across energy, tech, transport...

    Thomas Nguyen
  • Jake Sumner


    Jake Sumner is an Associate at ResPublica . He was previously our Senior Associate for Industrial Strategy upon joining us in January 2017. He has more than 20 years’ experience of public policy, campaigns and projects in national, regional and...

    Jake Sumner