Food and Drink

The south west food and drink sector is one of the strongest regional sectors in the UK with over 2,200 businesses and over 60,000 employees. It offers a variety of local and regional products and has a wide range of local producers.

The food and drink sector benefits from the leisure and tourism trade with around twenty million visitors spending a high proportion on food and drink.

The region has developed a strong reputation for quality food production, especially around local traditional foods.

In addition, it has been linked with strong branding initiatives such as Taste of the South West.

Approximately 12% of England's food and drink manufacturing employment is in the south west. The sector contributes around £2.6 billion (gross value added - or GVA) to the region, representing 4.5% of regional GVA. The physical environment of the region includes 1.8 million hectares of agricultural land and is home to over 25% of all organic farmers. The south west is home to over 30% of the UK's diary production.

The key factors that drive the sector include changes in consumer demand, changing technology, market power and the continuing regulation of different industries within the sector.

Skills shortages

The food and drink industry has identified skills shortages (listed below). These represent opportunities for graduates - it stands to reason that if you develop the skills that are in short supply, you will enhance your employment prospects.

The Sector Skills Council for Food and Drink, reported significant skills shortages in:

  • Supervisory and management roles
  • Technical roles - including food scientists, technologists, engineers and electricians
  • Machine operators
  • Craft skills, including bakers and butchers

There is also a need to address specific skills gaps to boost productivity and competitiveness in:

  • Management and supervisory skills
  • The quality of technical, practical and craft skills

Overall, the food and drink sector has difficulty in recruiting graduate scientists and engineers. This reflects, in part, the poor take up of science in schools.