The food trade’s ability to innovate was the key factor in it emerging from the recession stronger than other sectors of UK manufacturing, a new report has claimed.

The study – authored by Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing, in association with the Food & Drink Federation – found that production fell far less in the food sector than in other comparable industries.

Businesses in the sector increased their investment in new production facilities by 7% in 2009, while manufacturing as a whole cut its expenditure by 25%.

“The food and drink industry has weathered the recession best of all manufacturing sectors and appears to have continuing strength in R&D,” said Finbarr Livesey of the IfM.

“The sector will be a bellwether for changes to come, as the industry addresses environmental and health issues, two areas intimately related to food production.”

FDF director general Melanie Leech urged the government to put the food trade at the centre of its recovery plans.

“This report provides a timely reminder of the important financial, strategic and social contribution of the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector,” she said.

“We have placed innovative research and development at the heart of our industry and continued to invest in our products, our factories and our people in a hugely challenging economic climate.

“Now we are well placed to capitalise on these strong foundations as the country emerges from recession.”

She added: “We are a high-value added sector offering world-beating capabilities and a rich range of career choices. The government can place us with confidence at the heart of its strategy for recovery.”

Read more
The Grocer Gold Awards 2010: As good as gold (19 June 2010)
Own-Label Awards 2010: In a league of their own (22 May 2010)
Suppliers of the Year 2010: Going for gold (17 April 2010)