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Food for thought as firms show their appetite for growth

Food and drink companies across the South East Midlands have pledged to join forces to help continue to grow the industry and establish the region as a national centre of excellence.

New research unveiled by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) during the ‘Appetite For Growth’ session revealed that the food and drink manufacturing industry across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cherwell is worth £5.8billion per year.

That figure is growing year-on-year, with a wide range of established global brands based locally and an increasing number of small start-ups making the most of the South East Midlands distribution network and manufacturing expertise to help grow their business.

Leading players in the industry have now agreed to team up with SEMLEP to help develop a growth strategy for the food and drink sector, with proposals in place for potential mentoring schemes, knowledge sharing and further business support.

Daniel Charles Mouawad, chief executive of SEMLEP, said: “The South East Midlands is one of the most vibrant economies in the country and we want to continue that growth. The food and drink industry is a huge growth area and we are committed to taking it forward.

“We want the rest of the UK and Europe to see what we are doing here and make sure that everyone is aware of the manufacturing expertise we have on our doorstep.”

The Appetite For Growth saw presentations from global brands such as Bedfordshire-based Unilever – who unveiled a new portable ‘My Cornetto’ ice cream machine – and successful start-ups such as the Incredible Bakery Company, a produce of allergen-free bread and cakes based in Northamptonshire.

A series of workshops were held to hear concerns of employers, agencies and training providers, which resulted in a wide-ranging agreement for the industry to work closer together to address existing problems and grow the industry further in the future.

Valeria Mizuno-Turner of the Incredible Bakery Company said: “I relocated to this area because it is so much better for me to do business here than in London. It makes sense financially and the transport network is perfect. There is a lot to celebrate and by working together the industry can grow even further.”

The research commissioned by SEMLEP and carried out by the University of Northampton revealed around 16,300 people are currently employed in the food and drink manufacturing sector across the South East Midlands.

SEMLEP has vowed to further strengthen its links with colleges and universities to help increase the number of apprenticeships available in the food and drink sector while further meetings will be arranged with industry leaders later this year.

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