Journalists from around the globe visited a range of stands showcasing award-winning English wines, high quality Welsh and English beef, pork and lamb, Scottish whisky and Northern Ireland seafood.
Speaking at the special event to promote British exports during the Olympics, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“The Olympics has showcased Britain at its best - and that includes our food and drink, which is winning a deserved reputation for quality and variety. The world clearly has an increasing appetite for our produce, and the Games have provided a perfect opportunity for us to show everyone just how great British food and drink can be.
“Such demand for our food and drink is important, because food and drink industry is the single largest part of Britain’s manufacturing base. Its health and vitality are critical to this country’s economic growth. That is why the Government is helping the industry promote itself to a world audience, and capture the opportunities which the worldwide demand for British food and drink clearly provide.”
Despite difficult global trading conditions Britain’s food and drink exports rose by nearly 10% last year, and the industry is hopeful that the competitors, media and tourists from all over the world who have travelled to Britain for the Games will help spread the word about high quality British produce when they return home, leading to increased demand for British food and drink.
The food and drink manufacturing industry is very important to the UK economy - the sector employs 370,000 people and generates income of £76.2 billion, accounting for 16% of the UK’s total manufacturing sector revenues.
In addition to domestic businesses, over 3500 food and drink companies from around the world have bases in the UK, highlighting the positive business environment Britain provides, stringent health standards, quality of local produce, and willingness of Britain to embrace international cuisines to help overseas companies penetrate the European market.
Among the companies and products being showcased at the London Great British Food event at the Ofgem Atrium, were:
- organic produce from farms on lands owned by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales
- nutritional drinks used by athletes in many sports around the world
- the natural tastes of Scotland and Northern Ireland, from malt whisky to smoked salmon and other sustainably-sourced seafood
- Caribbean and Asian foods produced by companies who’ve set up in Britain to bring more varied tastes to European consumers
- Internationally award-winning English wines
- renowned high-quality Welsh and English beef, pork and lamb
- great traditional foods, now protected by law, to ensure consumers across the globe can be certain of their provenance and quality, from Melton Mowbray pork pies to Cornish clotted cream
Caroline Spelman’s comments were echoed by the British Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) Director General Melanie Leech, who said:
“We are seeing very strong performance from food and drink exports and in 2011 enjoyed our seventh consecutive year of growth. There is considerable interest in British products, particularly heritage brands and in our health and wellbeing innovation, and companies understand the importance of developing new markets. We have been working in partnership with the UK Government to help companies maximise their export potential and our members are very keen to raise the profile of British products amongst customers throughout the world”
The positive export message was repeated by James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink:
“Scotland’s reputation as a Land of Food and Drink is growing rapidly with whisky exports up 50% and food exports up a staggering 62% over the last four years.
“Whisky has long been a global trailblazer but the Scottish food sector is experiencing growth we haven’t seen before, with world famous produce ranging from salmon and seafood to red meat and whisky. The opportunity to showcase Scotland’s food in London during the Olympics has been fantastic and will ensure the momentum of the last few years continues.”
Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, Chair of the UK Protected Food Names Association, the body representing some of Britain’s most iconic and historic foods, noted:
“The UK produces some of the world’s most iconic foods and drink, now recognised by the special protected status of the European Community; from cheese to pork pies, quality meat and meat products to cider, beer and wine, and from sea food to fruit and vegetables, the UK has outstanding products capable of competing with the best in the world.”
At the London event, Jean-Pierre Garnier, export manager for EBLEX, the organisation promoting English beef and lamb, said:
“The Great Food Event was a great platform to showcase what Quality Standard beef and lamb are about - taste, tradition and innovation. We also wanted to link the beef and lamb to our characteristic countryside and reinforce our image of very high quality food produced in a sustainable way. Quality Standard beef and lamb can provide the inspiration and a great eating experience for cooks, chefs and consumers from many cultures and countries around the world.”
His views were echoed by Elsa Fairbanks, Director of the Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), who said:
“The Food and Drink Exporters Association is delighted to showcase British food and drink exporters at this event. Our growing network supports our members to successfully export some of the UK’s best and most exciting products around the world.”