Covid-19: The impact of the incident on food and drink manufacturing

30 June 2020

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for food and drink producers. Our new report summarises the main issues, the challenges for food and drink producers then, now and going forward and how FDF, FDF Scotland and FDF Cymru supported members and the wider industry.

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The Covid-19 crisis has put enormous pressures on food and drink manufacturing, but also highlights the extraordinary flexibility of the sector to face the biggest public health emergency in living memory. Perhaps the early days of the pandemic, before the lockdown, will be remembered for the nation’s desire to stockpile toilet roll. The UK’s food and drink manufacturers will remember it very differently.

The FDF has always been at the forefront of helping its members through food safety incidents.

However, an integral incident of this nature is unprecedented in modern times. Early into the crisis we established our incident team, simultaneously moving the FDF and FDF Scotland staff to remote working. Since the lockdown the FDF has been unstinting in our support for members. Every day has seen the FDF pivot into researching and supporting on a new concern usually centred on workforce, safety, international trade and business financial support.

Our long-standing working relationships with government including Defra, BEIS, DIT and the
Scottish and Welsh Governments, enabled access to Ministers and senior civil servants almost daily, and sometimes seven days a week.

Working so closely with the decision-makers has been key to shifting the many administrative and practical obstacles for members.

The resilience of our member companies has been monumental during this time. They kept
rising to the early challenges of consumer stockpiling, maintaining operational factories, and
keeping the food on our nation’s table, a truly remarkable feat.

I’m delighted how industry has engaged with the FDF, FDF Scotland and FDF Cymru raising
questions to our dedicated incident team and responding to our weekly surveys so we could
feed the very latest information and challenges directly into government. Our weekly Covid-19 webinars were attended by hundreds of businesses each week. And the FDF reached out
and spoke personally to almost all of our members to hear first-hand their concerns and issues, and get an insight into members priorities.

I am also very proud of, and not the least bit surprised, by this industry’s support and generosity. Food and equipment were donated to the NHS, foodbanks and local charitable good causes, while we were facing into the crisis.

Government and shoppers recognise how critical, and sometimes fragile, the UK food and drink industry is to ensure the safe well-being and feeding of the UK population. We will build on the position we have established. None of this would have been possible without the herculean effort by the people. We will continue to recognise and remember the ‘hidden heroes’ in the food and drink manufacturing industry, that have made this all possible.

This interim report reflects on the challenges, the important wins, and helps to plan for the future.

Ian Wright CBE
Chief Executive Food and Drink Federation