Plans to use the UK’s foreign embassies to help promote UK food and drink internationally have been welcomed at a time when new figures show that the sector’s exports grew by 12.2% in 2011.
Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spelman, announced last week that she will be asking the Foreign Office to follow the German example of using embassies as a base for promoting the country’s products and prospecting for exports.
Her announcement has been applauded the by Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents the UK’s food manufacturing industry.
Although the EU remains the UK’s biggest export customer, there has been strong growth in many emerging markets. Strongly performing products included chocolate; breakfast cereals; soft drinks; coffee; soup and confectionery.
China made the top 20 food and drink export destinations for the first time in 2011 and Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and South Africa were markets were sales of UK produced goods also increased.
FDF’s director of communications Terry Jones said: “Growth will come from exports and, importantly, from SMEs exporting. We need to work to accelerate that growth as we face stiff competition from abroad. We are therefore delighted that the Secretary of State has taken this early action which could contribute to that shared vision for the industry.”
Mr Jones added that the FDF’s recent trade show in China, in collaboration with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Food and Drink Exporters Association generated several hundred business leads for the companies involved.
Jones said that this exercise demonstrated the value of a presence in target destinations to make links with important customers. “We feel that involving embassies in this way will be a step forward in helping us to be as successful as competitor nations and meet the undeniable global demand for high quality British products,” he concluded.
The FDF recently unveiled its ambition to grow the industry by 20% by 2020. Food and drink exports continued reached £10 bn for the first time in 2010 and expected to finish close to £12 bn for 2011.
Later this month, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the food and drink industry will be unveiling a joint exports strategy designed to make it easier for companies to break in to new markets by removing bureaucratic barriers.