UK food and drink companies are backing a new initiative to recruit more home-grown food scientists and technology experts into the industry, after the announcement of a £2m funding package from the government.

Launched under the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) Trailblazer scheme, the initiative will boost the number of apprenticeships offered by companies and create new standards for training.

The Food Science Trailblazer follows in the wake of a scheme announced earlier this year to tackle the lack of apprenticeships in food and drink engineering.

Companies lined up to support the initiative, which have pledged an additional £1m in support, include Greencore, McCain, Mondelez, Nestlé, Premier Foods and Waitrose, with talks now under way about exactly what form the scheme will take when it launches next year.

“We are delighted that the government has approved this critical development,” said Justine Fosh, CEO of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.

“One by one, the major areas of skills shortage across our sector are being addressed through strong employer collaboration. We have the go-ahead to develop brand new routes for apprentices to study food science at all levels of the industry.”

Skills minister Nick Bowles added: “I congratulate Food & Drink Manufacturing’s Trailblazer Employer Group members and the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink for the key role they are playing.”