Food sector must speak with one voice, says FDF chief

The food industry is “absurdly fragmented”, according to one of its leading figures, and must put aside divisions to highlight the importance of the sector to the UK after Brexit.

Delivering a speech at food and drink consultancy Camden BRI this week, Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright suggested the tendency for the industry to segment and compartmentalise itself makes it hard for food and drink to put on a united front.

“When FDF convenes, on behalf of Defra, a monthly meeting of food and drink trade associations for an update on Brexit, we often have forty organisations around the table and we could have seventy,” said Wright.

Although this was not “intrinsically bad”, he said, “it makes it hard for food and drink to speak clearly and consistently, and to signal the scale of the industry we represent”.

Wright said that the FDF had been working hard not only to represent the views of its own members, but to act as a convenor for the wider industry. He noted that many others were on board with this approach, adding that “a new era of co-operation across food and drink is truly one of the silver linings in an otherwise cloud-filled sky”.

In a wide-ranging speech that touched on health, trade, and plastics, among other subjects, Wright said that Brexit represented an “enormous change” for the industry with implications for sourcing talent, exporting and importing goods, and food safety and science.

“As long as I lead the FDF, we will work to bring the industry closer together,” said Wright. “We will make the strongest possible case to government. A £112bn sector employing four million people must not be ignored.”

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