Annual Review 2009: Leading from the front

"Our ability to harness the collective efforts of our members has helped FDF strengthen its position as the respected advocate of the UK's largest manufacturing sector"

Melanie Leech, FDF Director General

Throughout the past year FDF and its members have continued to show real leadership in the ways in which we have collectively responded to the many challenges facing our sector. Melanie Leech As you will read elsewhere in this report, the year was dominated by recession and economic uncertainty, but our sector delivered tangible progress in improving its environmental performance under the auspices of our ground-breaking Five-fold Environmental Ambition.

At the same time, members continued to respond positively to equally complex issues such as obesity and are now leading the world in terms of the provision of clearer nutrition information; changing the recipes of popular brands; and their efforts to improve employee wellbeing.

Our ability to harness the collective efforts of our members in these very different ways has helped FDF strengthen its position as the respected advocate of the UK's largest manufacturing sector.

Last year I said that I wanted this organisation to be an influential, well-informed and proactive partner with whom Government was keen to work – and I am delighted to say that we are delivering against that important objective.

The health debate understandably remains a challenging area for our members. Nevertheless, we have seen a change in the quality of the conversations we are having with Government and I believe we are now forging a constructive partnership that is clearly focused on finding ways of working together to make a real difference for consumers.

We are always keen to work with other stakeholders on matters of mutual concern – and during the year we co-signed a letter to the Board of the Food Standards Agency with consumer organisation Which? and the Trading Standards Institute calling for food fraud to be a clearer priority within the Agency's new strategic plan. Thanks to this intervention, the change was implemented following a discussion by the FSA Board.

I am also delighted that our efforts to inform politicians and Government officials about the economic and strategic importance of our sector appear to be paying off – and our importance to the UK is now fully reflected in important policy documents, such as Defra's Food 2030 vision.

Clearly, there is more to be done, but I think we are well placed to capitalise on the growing appreciation of the role we play in underpinning the UK economy.

These encouraging changes are thanks, in part, to the decision we made in 2007 to restructure around three priorities (food safety and science, health and wellbeing, and sustainability and competitiveness). We now have Steering Groups led by the chief executives of member companies, providing an invaluable strategic overview to our activities in these areas and ensuring that we deliver tangible results for the wider FDF membership.

I would like to thank those who chaired our Steering Groups during the year – Jim Moseley of General Mills, Salman Amin of PepsiCo and Fiona Dawson of Mars Chocolate UK – as well as our Treasurer Paul Freeston of apetito and Jonathan Bye of Vimto, who runs our SME Forum. They give willingly of their time and expertise and their support is greatly appreciated.

Towards the end of the year we took the decision to split our work on sustainability and competitiveness to provide an even stronger focus on the very different activities we are undertaking in these two areas of policy. As a result, we have created a new Competitiveness Steering Group, chaired by Nick Bunker of Kraft, which will oversee FDF's efforts to educate politicians and policy makers about our sector's economic and strategic importance as well as promoting food and drink manufacturing as a career destination of choice throughout 2010. John Sutcliffe of Associated British Foods has kindly agreed to chair our new Sustainability Steering Group while Fiona is now leading our work on health and wellbeing.

This structure allows FDF to focus clearly on the issues of most concern to the industry, delivering proactive responses to policy developments, while ensuring that we deliver the best possible value for members. And that was vital during the economically turbulent period under review in this report. As you will read, we have scored some notable successes for our members across all our policy areas in the past year.

I am particularly proud of our successful efforts in pressing for Government measures that we felt would provide tangible support for our members, such as the trade credit insurance package or the introduction of a supermarket ombudsman, while lobbying against extra burdens being placed on companies, not least through new employment regulations.

FDF and its member companies continue to lead from the front. We have achieved much in the past year to be proud of. And I am sure that our collective efforts will continue to make a real difference in 2010.

In this review

FDF: steered by our members -

Industry in action:

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