Food and Drink

Every year the UK food and drink industry introduces around 10,000 new products. The UK is particularly competitive in added-value, branded and skill-intensive products. Food and drink manufacturing is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK and is growing at a faster rate than most other sectors.

The sheer scale of the food and drink sector in the UK makes this an ideal investment location for overseas companies.

On this page you can find out more about the world Class Food and Drink supply chain, the UK High Tech food sector, how the UK can be your gateway to Europe, the Food and Drink workforce and how the UKs labour laws support business.

World Class Supply Chain

The UK Food and Drink supply chain is one of the most sophisticated in the world, distributing up to five billion cases of products each year and accounting for 7 per cent of UK Gross Domestic Product. This is enabled by a reliable and efficient transport and logistics system, covering comprehensive air, rail, seaports and motorway networks, a strong network of warehousing and distribution specialists, where delivery from a central point in the UK can be made and returned within 24 hours and products recalled, if necessary, within a matter of hours.

Food and Drink manufacturing

  • 14% of manufacturing in the UK
  • £21.8bn of Gross Value Added
  • 400,000 people
  • 7,000 companies

A High Tech Sector

UK food and drink is a high-tech industry using innovative technologies in IT, engineering and life sciences to meet consumer needs and increase productivity while impacting less on the environment.

The UK’s food and drink sector is acknowledged as one of the most innovative and dynamic in the world. This country pioneered frozen food, ready-meals and instant coffee. Now, a whole new wave of product innovations and developments are transforming the way people eat and drink. For example, the UK is at the forefront of functional food development. The functional food market is currently worth around £1.2bn in this country and has grown steadily at a rate of 13 per cent, from £335 million in 2000.

Gateway to Europe

The UK is acknowledged as the number one gateway to Europe. The EU is the largest single market in the world, with a population of nearly 500 million. The UK food and drink sector is an important trading partner with Europe, with two thirds of its estimated £7.5bn food and drink exports going to the EU.

A skilled and productive workforce

The World Bank ranks the UK as a leading location in Europe to employ workers. This country has a skilled and flexible workforce, with fewer labour regulations than most other European countries. Over 400,000 people are employed in food and drink manufacturing in the UK. This workforce is the second most productive in the world with a strong skills base, particularly in crucial areas like R&D, process engineering and business services.

As the country has moved from bulk commodity to specialised value-added products, the skilled manufacturing workbase has demonstrated its flexibility by its willingness to up-skill and adopt new working practices. The skills, knowledge and expertise of our workforce has made the UK renowned across the world as a leader in innovation, particularly in areas like high tech packaging, health and convenience foods.

Whether you’re a food or drink manufacturer, an equipment manufacturer, a packaging company or a food and drink distributor, the UK provides everything you need to develop and expand your business.

Light-touch food and drink regulations

The UK is one of the most highly-regarded locations in the world for manufacturing food and drink, renowned for its high quality, wholesome raw materials and safe manufactured foods. Food and drink manufactured here is distributed around the globe and comes with the assurance of authenticity and safety. An important contributing factor in this is the fact that the UK food and drink industry is regulated by transparent, light-touch regulations which are designed to safeguard quality and safety, as well as protecting both the consumer and the supplier from hazards like microbial contamination, toxicity or anything that might compromise high quality standards. The industry benefits from guidelines for interpreting EU food and food labelling regulations that are clear, concise and unambiguous.

Our research infrastructure is sophisticated and well-developed, not only in academia but also in businesses with, for example, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, and Nestlé having their own sophisticated R&D operations here. The UK R&D landscape is rich, with collaborations between universities and companies often supported by funding from the Government. For more information see the pages about Rand D in the UK and Grants and Incentives.