South West food businesses will benefit from the Great British Food Unit, which has been established to boost UK food exports and support industry growth plans.

In January the Government announced a fresh approach to boosting British exports and achieving its targets of increasing the number of exporting businesses from 188,000 in 2010 to 288,000 by 2020; and increasing exports by value from £513.5 billion in 2010 to £1 trillion by 2020.  This is in response to a BIS Select Committee inquiry into the performance of UK Trade and Investment in achieving exporting targets.

One major part of the strategy is the Great British Food Unit (GBFU), which was launched on 21 January 2016.  The GBFU will offer practical support to food and drink manufacturers of all sizes to help them innovate and identify new markets for export.  There will be a particular focus on digital services and using technology to maximise efficiency and meet the demands of as many businesses as possible.

Over the next five years the GBFU will focus on:

  • helping more entrepreneurs start exporting for the first time;
  • supporting further Foreign Direct Investment into the UK food industry;
  • securing and maintaining access for UK meat and dairy products to markets such as China, Africa and South America;
  • helping treble the number of apprenticeships in the industry; and
  • increasing the number of Protected Food Names from 64 to 200.

The long term ambition of the GBFU is to grow UK food and drink exports to match other European economies such as France and Germany.  This is part of the overall strategy, centred on UK Trade and Investment and the 'Exporting is Great' campaign, to increase the value of UK exports by 2020 through concentrating on markets and sectors in which the UK is or can be a strong competitor on the international market.

Ian Wright CBE, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said:

"UK food and drink is a major national asset and the envy of the world. Government’s new Great British Food Unit, announced today, could be a real game changer for UK food and drink exports.  Helping this country’s 6,000+ producers, many of them small enterprises, to compete in the fiercely competitive global marketplace will help us meet our ambitious target to grow value added exports by a third to £6bn by 2020."

Food manufacturing is a major sector in the South West and businesses are encouraged to take advantage of the support offered by the GBFU to expand further overseas and explore new markets, particularly with the growing demand for organic products.  The GBFU will also work to further promote British foods that have been granted protected status under European law including, for example, Cornish Pasties.  

Looking to export for the first time can be daunting, but is a great route for expansion beyond the UK marketplace.  When considering exporting, some issues to consider and seek advice on include:

  • labelling, packaging and advertising materials in the context of national and international regulations;
  • branding and intellectual property protection; and
  • manufacturing, supply chain and distribution considerations.