A new decade awaits us and my time as FDF President is about to draw to a close. It has been an absolute honour to serve you over my three-year term. As I reflect on the political turmoil of recent years, I am immensely proud of all we have achieved as an industry — in no small part through the FDF’s ever-increasing clout and expertise.
The FDF consistently promotes and defends our sector’s interests — to Government, Parliament, regulators and the media. This year has been no exception. The team have handled over 750 media inquiries, organised 50 proactive media briefings, and managed 240 encounters with MPs and Peers, resulting in FDF being referenced over 25 times during key Parliamentary debates.
We have continued to raise the economic profile of the industry right across Government and used our powers to convene industry to the fullest: steering the Food and Drink Sector Council, participating in weekly F4 meetings with Defra Ministers and leading the monthly food and drink association roundtable with Whitehall.
Among our reports, FDF co-authored the Plan for Success and launched a manifesto for the General Election, Food and Drink: A Great National Success Story. Ahead of the UK Government’s National Food Strategy, I believe both are timely publications which do our industry justice. Indeed, Michael Gove called Plan for Success “coherent, compelling, and highly relevant”.
Other key FDF successes this year have included:
Supporting our membership and driving commercial growth
- Engaged constructively with the process for the proposed merger of Asda-Sainsbury’s, supplying careful and considered evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority.
- Achieved the rare and commendable feat of attracting and welcoming a new member to its ranks each week of the year. This is hugely important in making sure we are truly representative and offer all our members value for money.
- Best-ever attendance at FDF commercial events — notably the not-to-be missed FDF Dinner, Convention, annual Awards and a sold-out event on plastics and packaging. Over 100 webinars for members and non members.
- Strengthened the FDF footprint across the UK nations — FDF Cymru formed its Board and held its inaugural reception in the Senedd, FDF Scotland marked its 20th anniversary with celebrations through the year and we continued our close partnership work with NIFDA, the Northern Irish Food and Drink Association.
- Continued to help industry provide consumers with safe food, based on the best available science. This, as always, is a priority of the highest order, which we continue to strive towards but never take for granted. The newly updated FDF Gluten Labelling Guidance has now been downloaded over 2700 times and is a great example of how we show leadership in our sector.
- Taken significant steps to prepare for FDF’s digital transformation in 2020.
Prioritising the closest possible UK-EU trade and regulatory relationship
- Argued against a no-deal Brexit cliff edge three times, successfully leveraging FDF’s voice in the media and Parliament.
- Steered hundreds of companies through the Brexit uncertainty: providing advice and guidance through the member-only Brexit hotline and newsletter, our regular webinars and joint industry Brexit Hub.
- Promoted widely across Government the need for a best-in-class trade deal with the EU using FDF’s detailed Rules of Origin proposals and urged them to prioritise food and drink for the benefits we can deliver in every region in terms of growth, jobs and productivity.
Tackling obesity and other dietary concerns through an holistic, evidence-based partnership which reflects real lifestyles
- Advocated industry’s case through comprehensive, evidence-based responses to over 10 different consultations on diet and health at UK, Scottish and Welsh level. We continue to await Government’s response.
- Succeeded in persuading Public Health England to rethink their draft calorie reduction guidelines — they have paused to consider the points raised.
- FDF Scotland has argued in private and through the media on restricting the promotions of food and drink products on behalf of its members. The Scottish Government’s Bill on Restricting Foods Promotions has been pushed back until next September.
Supporting efforts to make food production and consumption more environmentally sustainable, and help tackle climate change
- Spearheaded discussions with UK Government on their resources and waste strategy, including a new Deposit Return System, a reformed packaging producer responsibility system, consistent collections in waste and a plastic packaging tax. We submitted four consultation responses and evidence to select committees.
- Significantly raised the profile of the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) crisis affecting our members through Ministerial and media advocacy as FDF and as wider industry. Now the election is over, we continue the fight for reform.
- Commissioned an independent report on decarbonisation of food and drink manufacturing which will help inform industry’s thinking on the future Energy White Paper and Heat Decarbonisation Roadmap and FDF’s work on the future of Climate Change Agreements (CCAs).
Working to develop talent and boost skills to equip the industry for its future
- Provided hands-on support to the Food and Drink Sector Council, the lead vehicle for a productive partnership between industry and Government, leading its first report, Preparing for a Changing Workforce, which outlined the need for further Government collaboration to address the industry’s productivity issues.
- Continued to raise awareness of the importance of EU citizens working in food and drink, feeding into the Home Office employers’ group and convening members to meet the Home Office to set out priorities for the Immigration White Paper.
- FDF Scotland’s initiative to encourage students into food and drink manufacturing was praised by Members of the Scottish Parliament.
Investing in our proposals to drive export growth and innovation
- Promoted the economic profile of the industry across Government and the media through regular surveys of members on business confidence and the UK’s economic outlook.
- Highlighted industry’s exports success and export support requirements via the FDF-led Food and Drink Sector Deal proposals, backed by industry bodies right across the food chain.
- Successfully informed Government plans to invest into research on market access in five priority export markets, as highlighted by members, through negotiations with Government on the FDF-led Sector Deal export proposals.
As I prepare to pass the baton to my excellent successor, Jon Woods, I have no doubt that the industry will need to work more closely together in 2020 and beyond. I urge you to continue in your support for FDF, as this new majority UK Government will bring fresh challenges and opportunities.
Thank you for the honour of serving you these last three years. I wish you and your families a happy Christmas and fulfilling 2020.
Gavin Darby — FDF President