halal meat

Halal food meat counter in Tesco, Fiveways, Birmingham

Immigration is a key issue in this general election. While ‘stop the boats’ is a flagship policy for the Conservatives, companies and unions are telling the incumbent Labour leadership that they – and Britain – need foreign workers.

The official figures make stark reading. There were 1,218,000 long-term immigrants to the UK in 2023. Looking ahead, the ONS projects UK population growth of 9.9% by 2036 will be almost entirely driven by the 13.7 million people who will immigrate here.

So forget what politicians say. Migration will continue to grow the UK’s population and broaden its tastes. Our food and drink industry should welcome the invigoration, inspiration and opportunities ahead.  

The flow of immigration will be essential to sustain the working-age population as Britain ages. One in four people set to be aged 65 or over by 2050. These newcomers will import inspirational tastes, flavours and customs, along with religious and cultural festivals. Handled with respect, sensitivity and inclusion, this can stimulate both product innovation and marketing opportunities.

Despite the negative media coverage about immigration, British people have already shown a willingness to embrace global foods after previous waves of immigration from Europe, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. This was aptly encapsulated by comedian Stewart Lee’s routine satirising people in the 1970s complaining about Indians “coming over here… inventing us a national cuisine”.

Mintel research shows 92% of Brits ate world cuisines in the previous three months, with 51% trying at least five different types. Meanwhile, 85% would try a new cuisine that shares ingredients with another cuisine they already like.


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Following Brexit, with Asia and Africa’s increasingly skilled workers being recruited here, UK-based food and drink companies should open up to new inspirations from the likes of Nigerian and Filipino cuisine.

The opportunity is not to cater to new migrant communities, but to Britain overall. However, the opportunity must be treated respectfully through the co-creation (as opposed to appropriation) of products with communities.

The Black Farmer’s partnership with M&S to create an “authentic” co-branded Jamaican jerk paste remains a sterling example, whilst Migrateful’s mission to help migrants teach their traditional cuisines offers routes to integration and inspiration.

There will also be new marketing opportunities to turbo-charge existing celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Eid, as well as to create new ones. Tesco’s ‘Together This Ramadan’ campaign, for example, celebrated Iftar, the meal that ends daily fasting during Ramadan, while Qinwan Dates and Harrods partnered to offer giftable dates. 

So far, brands have barely scratched the surface of the breadth of inclusive opportunities to be had for all Britons.