Partnerships and Support in the Food Industry: Food and Drink Forum

Like any industry, the food and drink sector can survive and thrive through effective collaborations and partnerships. With over 30 year’s experience providing engineering services to the manufacturing industry, we know the important role relationships and the support of others, plays in the success of any business.

FESS is a member of a number of organisations and networking groups that complement our values and aims of the business. From #UKmfgUnite to the Energy Institute, we are now proud to have joined the Food and Drink Forum as an Associate Member to help provide support to the growing number of food and drink manufacturers across the UK. Food and Drink forum

Facilities and Marketing Manager for the Food and Drink Forum, Bryony Whiley shared with us some details on the organisation, along with insight into the challenges and opportunities faced in the sector for both large and small UK manufacturers.

What is The Food & Drink Forum?

The Food & Drink Forum is a not-for-profit trade association driving positive change in the food and drink sector. Since its establishment in 1998, The Forum has been providing a range of comprehensive business support through; access funding, food park development and management, food technical support, and membership services.

  • How have UK food and drink manufacturers responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Forum has worked closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) throughout the pandemic, having undertaken surveys with food and drink businesses across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, the South East Midlands and the South West. The businesses hardest hit have been those either operating in or supplying into food service e.g. supplying restaurants, cafes, schools, universities. Businesses are finding it hard to forward plan and strategize due to an ever changing climate, and many had to access financial support through the various Government schemes. However, there have been some success stories with a rise in businesses selling products online direct to consumers, there has been an increase in businesses supplying smaller, independent retailers, and there has been increase in food and drink products being exported out of England.

  • What are the biggest challenges faced by UK food and drink manufacturers?

The challenges faced by the food and drink sector varies depending on the size of the business; for start-up and small businesses there is often a lack of technical and food safety knowledge, developing a safe product and understanding the legislation required to safely sell the product is key. As businesses start to grow they face new challenges; many food businesses start in the home kitchen and so suitable premises need to be procured which aren’t readily available as production facilities must adhere to strict food safety legislation. Larger, established businesses who are supplying larger retailers and supermarkets, or that hold a certification such as BRC face unannounced audits on a regular basis, and the industry as a whole suffers from skills gaps, with the food industry not appealing to a younger generation.

  • Are there any sub-sectors of the industry that the UK is leading the way in?

The Forum has always worked with a wide range of sub-sectors, however has seen a rise in businesses offering vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free products over the past 18 months; following the UK veganism trend in the UK, with the number of vegans in the UK quadrupling between 2014 and 2019 (according to the Vegan Society).

  • What does 2021 have in store for The Forum?

Having launched a brand new membership offering this year which introduced Free Network Membership, Business Membership and Associate Membership to the sector, 2021 looks set to be an exciting year. The Forum will be launching its new website in the New Year, which will act as a useful resource for the food and sector, and continue to bring food and drink producers together with a strong network of Associate Members, providing services to the sector through the Online Suppliers’ Directory. Most importantly, The Forum team is looking forward to being able to get back out there meeting with the amazing businesses within its network and helping them to recover from a challenging year.


Here at Fess, we pride ourselves on the support we provide our clients and being seen as a trusted supplier. If we can help you and your food and drink organisation, please do get in touch

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