SCRAPPING post-Brexit “not for EU” labelling on food and copying Scottish Government funding for suppliers are two key recommendations for the UK Government in a major new “manifesto” from a top industry body.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents giants of the industry including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Mars, Kellogg’s, and Cadbury as well as more than 1000 others, called for the UK Government to act to reverse an “alarming downturn” in investment in the sector.

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The FDF pointed to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which shows investment in UK food and drink manufacturing fell by a third from 2019 to 2023, while investment in UK manufacturing overall rose by 5%.

In a manifesto which the SNP claimed showed Scotland was “already leading the way”, the FDF called for the UK Government to:

  • Make it easier to trade with the EU by “improving” the Tories’ Brexit deal and “removing impediments such as UK-wide ‘Not for EU’ labelling”.
  • Work “closely with the devolved administrations” to ensure that there are not different regulations across different parts of the UK.
  • Ensure “certainty for drinks manufacturers by implementing a single, interoperable UK DRS [deposit return scheme] as soon as possible”.
  • Reform the immigration system to make it “globally competitive” and help attract foreign talent to key UK roles.
  • Create a new fund based on the Scottish Government’s Reformulation for Health Programme that helps firms change food and drink recipes to align with public healthy goals.
  • Introduce a “Food and Drink Manufacturing Transformation Fund” to boost the use of technology in food and drink production and deliver high-skilled jobs.

SNP MSP Emma Harper welcomed the manifesto, saying it showed “that Scotland is already leading the way on expanding access to high quality, healthy produce and supporting this sector”.

She went on: “The SNP Scottish Government has implemented several of their recommendations, including a reformulation programme and deposit return scheme which will be introduced next year – after being delayed by the UK Government. It is also enacting a Good Food Nation plan, local food strategy and expanding the provision of free school meals.

“Despite this, Brexit is putting huge strain on our producers – threatening the viability of many businesses with trade barriers and workforce shortages – and new border checks potentially causing food shortages.

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Westminster clearly isn’t working for Scotland – our priorities and values should be reflected in our government, and the only way to guarantee that is for Scotland to become an independent country.”

The FDF said that the UK’s food and drink sector included 12,500 businesses contributing £38 billion in Gross Value Added and employing half a million people.

This week, figures from HM Revenue and Customs showed that Scottish salmon was the UK's top food export in 2023, with sales increasing by 0.5% to £581 million.

Scotch whisky exports topped £5.6bn, making it by far the UK’s most valuable food or drink export.

Karen Betts, the FDF chief executive, said: “Our industry is at the heart of everyone’s daily lives. With people and sites everywhere across the country, we want to unleash the industry’s potential over the coming, critical decade, investing in the future of individuals, communities, and the health of our planet.

“Our manifesto sets out an exciting vision for the next decade, and we can only achieve this in a productive and ambitious partnership with the next government.

“We want a joined-up approach to food policy across Whitehall, the devolved administrations, regulators, the industry and NGOs, to ensure that together we build the resilient, sustainable, innovative and growing food and drink manufacturing sector of tomorrow that the UK needs and deserves.”