FOOD and drink businesses in Kirklees have been urged to take a bite out of the export sector.
Strong export figures for the UK’s food and drink industry have left the sector well-placed to enjoy a period of prolonged growth, according to Yorkshire Bank.
UK food and drink exports increased by 14.8% in 2011 compared with the previous year and were worth a total of £18.1bn, according to recent figures from the Food and Drink Federation.
The statistics show Ireland remains Britain’s number one export destination, but emerging trends indicate there is plenty to be positive about elsewhere.
For example, 2011 included a 55% increase in exports to China, and a 49% rise in exports to Poland. The figures highlight that the food and drink sector remains remarkably buoyant, despite wider speculation about the prospects for the global economy.
David Lee, head of food and drink at Yorkshire Bank throughout the region, said it was important for food and drink companies to maintain a positive outlook.
“The financial reality for many exporting companies in recent months has been for continued growth,” he said. “UK exports to Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia increased by 41% and 14% last year, while in the EU exports to the Netherlands and Belgium grew by around 30%.
“Plainly there are real opportunities for companies with a strong business model and an understanding of growing markets. The end result of achieving growth abroad will be increased support for the wider UK economy through increased production and jobs creation.”
The growth in Asian markets is being partly put down to changing eating habits, with more westernised products being bought by wealthier customers. There is a growing trend for specialist shops to carry well-known brands with meat and cereals amongst the leading growing markets.
Mr Lee said: “A change in eating habits in Asian countries has seen a substantial increase in the flow of Western products.
“Dairy and meat products grew by 220% in China alone last year, with demand looking to remain strong in the long term.
“And interest in this area is not contained to exports – Shanghai-based Bright Foods has recently taken a majority shareholding in Weetabix. Now is the time for UK companies to do their homework and find new markets for established domestic foods.”
Mr Lee said: “The Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee have created a natural interest in the UK, which will offer British companies opportunities to turn casual interest into business opportunities.”