Press release

Great British Brands to take world by storm through new British Food Unit

Today Environment Secretary announces a brand new Great British Food Unit.

Wheat

A Great British Food Unit has been established today to turbo-charge UK food exports and support industry growth plans, like their target of increasing manufactured food exports to £6 billion by 2020.

From Weetabix to Rwanda, Cadbury chocolate fingers to the Bahamas and Yorkshire Tea to China, famous British brands are taking on the world. Today’s launch of the new Great British Food Unit will back industry targets to further boost exports and support even more British companies such as Taylors of Harrogate, Nestle and Mr Kipling export overseas potentially generating an additional 5,000 jobs in food and drink manufacturing.

The long term ambition of the new unit is to match France and Germany, which both currently export more than double the UK in terms of the value of food and drink. For the first time ever it will bring together experts in exports and investment from Defra and across Government to help even more businesses sell their world class produce around the globe.

The UK already has an international reputation for excellence and as a place to invest in. The unit will support further Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into our food industry which stood at a record £60 billion in 2014 – nearly a third of all FDI assets in UK manufacturing.

Marking the launch of the Unit, UK breakfast cereal giant Weetabix, a success story for foreign investment, has today pledged to source all of its wheat from local farmers, helping guarantee the quality of their wholegrain wheat, supporting our growing rural economy and protecting the environment.

In 2012, Bright Food - China’s second largest food manufacturing company – bought 60% of Weetabix for £1.2 billion due to growing consumer markets in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing. The iconic cereal is now reaching breakfast tables in 80 countries worldwide, including Africa, Germany, Spain and North America, with the Bright Food deal set to open markets in East and Western Africa. These deals create and secure more jobs for UK workers.

Weetabix’s success is exemplary of what hundreds of thousands of UK food and drink companies can achieve through the new Great British Food Unit. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) estimate exports of manufactured goods alone will go up by a third to £6 billion by 2020.

During a visit to the Weetabix factory, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

We produce more new food products each year than France and Germany combined. My long term aspiration is for the UK to match both these countries in terms of the value of exports so our food and drink becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

From Weetabix to Yeo Valley yoghurt, I want to see more of the Great British breakfast enjoyed around the world. Through the creation of the new Great British Food Unit companies large and small will now find it easier to export overseas and receive foreign investment.

It is vital for our economic future that we make British food and farming all it can be – over the next five years we will do that by backing big business, supporting punchy start-ups and embracing our rich food heritage.

Trade Minister Lord Maude said:

There is huge potential for the UK to substantially increase its exports in the food and drink sector, with the UK home to many iconic food brands. This new Unit will help UK businesses sell their high quality produce around the globe, boosting exports and helping create more jobs.

The launch of the new unit comes as the Government announced 2016 as the Year of Great British Food. It also follows last November’s launch of the first food and drink pioneers who will promote the very best in British food across the country and overseas inspiring people everywhere to choose British.

Ian Wright CBE, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said:

UK food and drink is a major national asset and the envy of the world. Government’s new Great British Food Unit, announced today, could be a real game changer for UK food and drink exports. Helping this country’s 6,000+ producers, many of them small enterprises, to compete in the fiercely competitive global marketplace will help us meet our ambitious target to grow value added exports by a third to £6bn by 2020. In the UK, we have doubled total food and drink exports in a decade, and, with the right support, even more UK brands can take their fair share of the opportunities that abound abroad.

We strongly share the Government’s commitment to making the UK the investment destination of choice, and agree that a growing and sustainable food and drink industry is vital to our shared economic future. Through the industry and Government partnership promised by the unit - kicked off in this, the Year of Great British Food - we will work to give Britain’s makers, bakers and bottlers the support they need to thrive.

Companies seeking to be involved in the Great British Food Unit will be offered practical support to help them innovate and identify new markets for export. They will be championed by international UKTI teams and British Embassies who will work to promote British food and drink abroad.

Over the next five years the Great British Food Unit will focus on:

  • Helping more entrepreneurs start exporting for the first time.
  • Supporting further FDI into the UK food industry.
  • Securing and maintaining access for UK meat and dairy products to markets like China, Africa and South America.
  • Helping treble the number of apprenticeships in the food and drink industry to bring new skills and ideas so the pace of innovation continues to accelerate.
  • Increasing the number of Protected Food Names from 64 to 200 to celebrate the rich heritage and iconic traditions of British food, building on the importance consumers place on provenance.

A representative from Bright Food based in China said:

We are honoured by today’s visit by the Environment Secretary to the UK headquarters of Weetabix, a proud British brand that Bright Food and Baring Private Equity are backing to grow internationally. The quality of British produce is famous worldwide and here in China we are finding shoppers are eager to try out new tastes.

Further information

  • The FDI figures are from the latest ONS statistics.
  • Overall employment in the food and drink manufacturing sector is 400,000 and the sector accounts for 13% of all UK manufacturing jobs.
  • Over the last five years foreign direct investment in food and drink created around 21,000 new jobs and safeguarded a further 21,000.
  • Between 2010 and 2014, the proportion of employees with degree-level qualifications increased from 11% to 18%, a faster rise than elsewhere in manufacturing or the economy.
  • The Great British Food Unit will also work to further promote our 64 unique British foods which achieved the prestigious European protected status, including Rutland Bitter, Cornish Pasties and Swaledale Cheese.
  • For more information on this press release, contact the Defra press office on 020 7238 5498.
Published 21 January 2016