Championing the food and drink industry

Award-winning journalist Chris Maguire is the editor and co-owner of BusinessCloud.  In his latest blog he shines a light on the often overlooked food and drinks industry.

When you think of manufacturing what’s the first image that comes to mind? The likelihood is it will probably be a car or aircraft part coming off the production line because they’re the poster boys of the sector.

We’ve all seen the fleet of Range Rover Evoques sitting on the dockside at the Port of Liverpool waiting to be shipped to far flung places around the world.

But when it comes to manufacturing not many people would think of food and drink as being particularly significant or very ‘sexy’ but its importance can’t be overstated.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a proud resident of Chorley, in Lancashire, which was the birthplace of sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate.  He set his business up in Liverpool and following a merger became one half of Tate & Lyle.

Liverpool was a natural place to base his business and the city’s port has forged a proud 300 year tradition of enabling companies to trade overseas – something that continues to this very day.

Last year I was given a guided tour of Typhoo Tea’s Wirral factory in Moreton. It’s incredible to think that the site produces 14 million tea bags every 24 hours and that the company supplies a quarter of all the tea consumed in Britain. That’s a lot of brews.

Typhoo has a long history of importing tea through the Port of Liverpool, a relationship that was cemented with the opening of the £400m Liverpool2 in 2016, enabling the port to welcome some of the world's biggest ships.

Another little known fact is that more than two thirds of the cocoa beans and a third of our coffee bean imports come through Liverpool.  Imagine where we would be without tea, coffee and chocolate! It’s hardly worth thinking about.

Liverpool is already helping a wide range of companies such as Diageo export large number of drinks such as Guinness, whisky and Baileys to reach overseas markets.

In 2016 the UK shipped £316bn ($408bn) worth of product globally. The USA is the UK’s number 1 trading partner, importing £46.8bn ($60.4bn) worth of product, which makes up 14.8 per cent of UK’s total exports.

Of that, £20.2bn was food and drink – an increase of 13 per cent compared with 2015 – and the US and the rest of the Americas will continue to be an increasingly important export market post-Brexit.

Despite the benefits, too many businesses shy away from trading internationally. One survey that I saw from the British Chambers of Commerce showed 89 per cent of businesses had ambitions to grow domestically, yet only 44 per cent had ambitions to grow internationally. Why?

The figure that surprised me most was that one in seven businesses (15 per cent) do not currently export although they admit their products or services could be exported or developed for export.

As of 2015 there were 2.5 million registered businesses in the UK so an estimated 375,000 companies could be exporting but don’t. Imagine the difference that would make to our economy.

Can you believe June 24, 2018 will mark the second anniversary of the UK’s landmark referendum vote to leave the EU. It’s hard to believe there was once a world before Brexit!

Research by the Institute of Export & International Trade found that 88.57 per cent of respondents have started planning for the impact that the UK’s exit from the EU could have on their business, with 45.92 per cent planning for changes in their supply chains and 43.88 per cent preparing for foreign exchange fluctuations.  On a positive note more than a third of respondents are planning to brush up on their internal export skills.

So what conclusions have we reached from this blog? The first is that when you think of manufacturers don’t forget the burgeoning food and drink sectors and the second is if you want to grow your bottom line then don’t ignore the power of exporting.

If you are interested in international food and drink exports please contact us HERE.

Chris Maguire, Editor, Businesscloud

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