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Ian Wright Chief Exec Food Drink Federation

23rd May 2019

Plenty of opportunity for Kent’s food & drink producers

The Kent Food and Drink Conference 2019 The Kent Food and Drink Conference 2019 heard there is currently plenty of opportunity for Kent’s food and drink producers however they need to be aware of trends in the wider sector which may impact on them over the next 12+ months. According to research presented by Chris Hayward Head of UK Business Development at Kantar Worldpanel* at Produced in Kent’s Kent Food and Drink Conference 2019, UK supermarket customers are already displaying ‘recessionary tactics’ ahead of Britain leaving the European Union. Food and drink producers need to be aware of these subtle but shifting changes, to prepare their own businesses for the future. Other trends include:
  • Despite the UK not being in recession, some recessionary behaviour is in evidence.
  • The environment and social impacts addressing such issues as obesity, waste, one-use plastic.
  • Provenance still has great power to influence shopper decision making, which is good news for Kent’s producers. Consumers are loyal to local brands.
  • With changing consumer tastes, food producers need to be thinking now about what products the child of today will grow up with, for example less sugar in traditional food and drink, and how that will reflect their future tastes and food choices of the future.
  • Retailers need to give shoppers permission to spend, put more in their shopping basket and offer reasons to come into store.
  • Real opportunities are there for new product development by understanding their market – aging population, more people working from home, there are more diabetics now than vegetarians!
Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food & Drink Federation spoke about how thanks to Brexit, they were seeing closer cooperation across the food chain and different food groups in the UK. Ian highlighted that until faced with Brexit, the UK hasn’t had a national food and drink strategy since 1940. He went on to say that: “The UK has the most fantastic array of choice, something which we should all treasure and that people love being entrepreneurs in this industry.” Ian concluded the conference by highlighting the opportunity that are being missed as “95% of R&D tax credits are not taken up by businesses and there is a need by the Government to think about how to incentivise people in the food and drink industry. He noted that “This is the most exciting industry to be in in the UK.” Other speakers included Economist Chris Hare from HSBC on the wider global economy and whether that is poised for slower growth and Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agri Food also at HSBC, who spoke about the shape of things to come in the future, commenting: “There is a vibrant network of infrastructure to assist food businesses in Kent.” Also:
  • Olivier Morel, Partner Cripps LLP – spoke about opportunities around UK/French international trade
  • Sue Nelson, CEO & Founder of Breakthrough Group – spoke about the Future of food trends for 2020 and beyond
  • Sarah Carroll, Founder Grow Global – spoke about digital exporting
  • Samuel Cliff, Senior Manager, Ethical Trading, Worldwide Fruit & Dr Umair Shafi Choksy, University of Kent Business School – spoke about Ethical trading practices and modern slavery
  • Des Kingsley, Managing Director Thanet Earth – Application of technology in food production
HSBC were headline sponsors for the event bringing together leading experts from the food and drink industry nationally and regionally. Stephanie Durling at Produced in Kent comments: “There was a lot of information and insight shared by all our conference speakers. For all producers here in Kent, regardless of the size of their business, there is much they should be thinking about for the future. The successful business of today needs to think about so many different issues to continue to be a successful and growing business in the future. Whether this is how people shop, how their tastes will change or the growing importance of issues around packaging and sustainability. It really was food for thought.”