Food Manufacturing

The UK food manufacturing industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, contributing over £28.5bn to the UK economy. 

Manufacturing Sector: Overview & News

Putting the sector under the microscope

Taking advantage of digital technologies is vital to the prosperity of UK food manufacturing and requires immediate action.

Businesses across the food manufacturing supply chain are evolving their practices to reduce waste, meet the food security challenge and address changing consumer needs, aided by the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). While such improved connectivity promotes greater collaboration and customer service, it also presents new challenges and obstacles.

Implementing a transition to Industry 4.0 requires the involvement of players from across the supply chain, academia and government and a change in mindset from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’. The purpose of this report is to provide actionable insights in support of these next steps for incorporating the opportunities offered through Industry 4.0. These opportunities are discussed under three lenses:

real time resource efficient production
resilient and productive food supply chains, 
the use of digital technologies for improved consumer engagement.


The Background

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of which the UK Food Council is a member, has recently highlighted that 50-70% more food must be produced by 2050 to meet the needs of the growing population and changing dietary demands. Studies also emphasise that over the past 40 years climate change has caused the loss of a third of the Earth’s arable land and that roughly one third of food produced globally for human consumption is wasted.

Call to Action

In this context, global food security requires immediate and substantial social, economic and industrial reform to alleviate the strain on natural habitats and current food supply chains. Players across the food manufacturing supply chain must evolve their practices based on the opportunities offered through Industry 4.0 and associated digital technologies to address chronic global productivity challenges.

As the largest manufacturing industry in the UK, the food industry can pave the way for greater adoption of sustainable practices by all the nation’s manufacturing sectors.





The Opportunity

A £55.8bn opportunity for the food and drink sector over the next 10 years through the adoption of currently known digital technologies. As a result the sector has been asking some pressing questions.

The Questions Are Many
How can technology improve resource efficiency and reduce food waste? How does the agri-food sector become more efficient? How can more jobs be automated in the produce sector where labour availability is a problem? How can duplication of effort in the supply chain be reduced? How can the mountains of paper in the supply chain be digitised?

The Smart Food Factory
The emergence of the smart food factory offers a significant opportunity to tackle some of these questions in the production sphere. Sensor technology, image recognition and connectivity via IoT are driving further automation. With automation comes greater effi ciency, improved hygiene and traceability, and increased consistency. While these technologies can help to reduce costs, arguably more important is their contribution to managing complexity, controlling operations and improving responsiveness.

Digitalisation can secure organisational competitive advantage and enhance the UK’s competitiveness. Several tools including Internet of Things and robotics, drawing on artificial intelligence, are greatly assisting food processors and manufacturers to improve resource efficiency and reduce waste.

While these are only two of the many technologies available to assist production, the adoption of new technologies is not rapid because industry is struggling with a lack of skills, the cost and complexity of integrating these tools, the need to digitise data, and older cost models that do not accurately reflect the ROI for the uptake of digital technologies. 


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Sector Challenges And Opportunities

Actionable Insights


UK Agriculture Releases:
This is a snapshot of the latest food, news and research for the manufacturing sector.

Sign-in to read the full release.

65% of diners polled in survey are concerned about the environment, up from 47% pre-lockdown: A survey by the Sustainable Restaurant Association has found that more people are concerned about the environment when they dine out, than they were before… Read more...

77% of UK adults believe the Government should ensure imported food meets UK environmental and welfare standards: A survey has revealed that the majority of UK adults polled in a nationwide survey agree that the Government should ensure than any food… Read more...

Survey reveals 80% of UK adults are open to trying 'cultivated' meat: A survey of people from the UK and the US has found high levels of openness to ‘cultivated’, lab-grown meat, with two fifths of UK respondents and the same percentage… Read more..


Three in 10 UK adults think about impact on the environment when buying food: A survey has revealed that more people are considering the impact on the environment when it comes to their food purchases, with 29% saying the are shopping more consciously… Read more..


1 in 5 Brits do not attempt to recycle takeaway packaging: A survey of UK adults has found that whilst many enjoy eating a number of takeaways each month, almost a fifth of respondents (19%) admitted to never bothering with recycling the wrappers, boxes… Read more..

Over half UK adults intend to eat more British produce following Brexit: A survey of UK adults has revealed that more than half are looking to buy more British food and produce this year, following the UK's departure from the EU… Read more..

Read Sector 'Insight Research':
• Farming for Food - Food Sustainability

Agriculture and Horticulture Innovation

UK Food System in a Pandemic

• Mapping Out the Future of the UK Food Industry


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Discover the latest market trends and uncover sources of future market growth for the UK Food Service industry with insight from the UK Food Council. 

Find hidden opportunities in the most current research data available, understand competitive threats with our detailed market analysis and plan your corporate strategy with our expert qualitative analysis and growth projections. If you're in the Food Service industry, our research will save you time and money while empowering you to make informed, profitable decisions. 

In addition this report highlights: 

The  changes required throughout the different elements of the food system and beyond if food security is to be provided for a predicted nine billion people. Action has to occur on all of the following four fronts simultaneously:
● More food must be produced sustainably through the spread and implementation of existing knowledge, technology and best practice, and by investment in new science and innovation and the social infrastructure that enables food producers to benefit from all of these.
● Demand for the most resource-intensive types of food must be contained.
● Waste in all areas of the food system must be minimised.
● The political and economic governance of the food system must be improved to increase food system productivity and sustainability. The solution is not just to produce more food, or change diets, or eliminate waste. The potential threats are so great that they cannot be met by making changes piecemeal to parts of the food system. It is essential that policy-makers address all areas at the same time.

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