Government must back UK food manufacturing to deliver food security and economic growth over the next decade

13 February 2024

The food and drink manufacturing sector is vital – we make the food and drink that everyone knows and loves while our 12,500 businesses underpin the UK’s economic strength, contributing £38 billion in Gross Value Added and employing half a million people.


However, a series of shocks over the past five years, including COVID, Brexit and the war in Ukraine, alongside extreme weather events, has placed real strains on our industry and has caused supply chain disruption and inflation. As we look ahead to the critical coming decade, we know our sector needs to invest to strengthen our resilience and to seize opportunities to modernise our manufacturing, innovate both in our products and processes, and ensure we meet net zero while supporting nature and protecting the environment.

But recent data published by the Office for National Statistics, highlights an alarming downturn in investment. In 2023, investment in UK food and drink manufacturing – the nation’s largest manufacturing sector - fell by a third in 2023 compared to 2019. This is in sharp contrast to investment in UK manufacturing overall, which increased by five per cent in the same period.

This fall in investment can be attributed to a number of factors. Significant among these is an overly burdensome and disjointed regulatory landscape – from an uncertain tax landscape to poorly designed recycling policies and ambiguous labelling changes – which is putting investors off, and is seeing that investment go to Europe, North America or Asia instead, where there’s clarity on the future direction of policy and regulation.

The FDF’s industry manifesto, published today, sets out our long-term vision for our sector. We want to partner with government to see our industry thrive in the UK, to the benefit of consumers and to drive up investment and opportunities over the next decade. We highlight three key areas where we want government to partner with industry:

  • Green and adaptive to create a circular economy through high-performing, producer led EPR and DRS schemes that drive up recycling rates, delivery of Net Zero policies and further reduces food waste
  • Productive and growing to foster investment in innovation, facilitate an effective regulatory environment that drives growth, deliver a trade strategy that boosts exports, and tackle the chronic skills shortages experienced by our sector
  • Nourishing and innovative to deliver a joined-up approach across government to tackle poor diets, a clear and consistent public health campaign to inform and empower consumers to make healthier choices, and a reformulation fund to support small and medium sized businesses make healthier products.

Karen Betts, Chief Executive, The Food and Drink Federation said:

“Our industry is at the heart of everyone’s daily lives. With people and sites everywhere across the country, we want to unleash the industry’s potential over the coming, critical decade, investing in the future of individuals, communities, and the health of our planet.

“Our manifesto sets out an exciting vision for the next decade, and we can only achieve this in a productive and ambitious partnership with the next government.

“We want a joined-up approach to food policy across Whitehall, the Devolved Administrations, regulators, the industry and NGOs, to ensure that together we build the resilient, sustainable, innovative and growing food and drink manufacturing sector of tomorrow that the UK needs and deserves.”

Download our manifesto in full:

Our manifesto