Andy Richardson, Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board
In 2014, a vision was laid out in the Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry in Wales to establish how the industry would develop over the next six years on its journey to reaching its full potential.
Ambitious growth targets were a key theme. Our aim was to drive collaboration between industry and government to achieve a 30 per cent growth in Welsh food and drink sales to £7billion by 2020. By the close of 2019, the latest industry figures revealed a record-breaking turnover of £7.473 billion.
This huge achievement has been reached in spite of the difficulties and looming backdrop of Brexit which has put pressure on the cash flow, investment and capital of many food and drink businesses in Wales.
So, how did it happen? This success is ultimately a result of working to and delivering the Welsh Government’s food and drink plan
Establishing the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board (FDWIB)- a strategic link between government and industry - has meant Welsh Government has received dynamic industry advice and worked collaboratively to deliver the plan and drive growth. We’ve worked together to develop a clusters concept which now includes over 700 food and drink businesses and the work of the Board includes regular engagement with Welsh food and drink businesses, at cluster events up and down the country.
Skills, marketing and finance has also been a vital area for development in order for us to achieve this success. We have delivered these through conferences and events – the most recent in November 2019 when we held a ‘Preparing for Sustainable Scale Up’ event in Cardiff Bay, where we announced £5.5 million of commercial investment to Welsh food and drink businesses as a result of the Investor Ready Programme, a joint industry and Government initiative. More than 100 businesses have been helped by the programme, receiving expert opinion and advice, coaching sessions from finance experts, succession planning advice and realisation of business value, and meeting opportunities with potential investors.
Skills are a challenge in the sector – there is competition with other industries in Wales in recruiting skilled employees. We addressed the challenge head on by launching our own Skills Strategy in 2018 which has encouraged businesses to be more proactive in addressing skills by pledging to upskilling staff and encouraging career progression. The Food Skills Cymru programme provides bespoke support to businesses within the Welsh food and drink processing and manufacturing industry to ensure employees have the right skills and training for their business and the wider industry.
Of course, we’re fortunate in Wales to have a country, landscape and people creating some of the world’s best food and drink. Part of our strategy has been to showcase this to the rest of the UK and the world. Taste Wales/ Blas Cymru, is our national and international trade event and conference, bringing together the leading exponents of the food and drink industry in Wales, providing an opportunity for buyers and producers to develop new business.
What’s next for Welsh food and drink? The impact of Brexit is still an unknown but the industry in Wales has proven its resilience and huge potential. We’re keen to share success and use it as an inspiration from 2020 and beyond.
The Welsh Government are strategic partners with EvoNorth and Justine Fosh, Chief Executive, The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and Food & Drink Wales Industry Board will be speaking at the event.