Gavin Darby’s reflections on the Food and Drink Federation

Gavin Darby

Throughout the UKs ongoing uncertainty regarding Brexit’s potential impacts, industry leaders have called for the development of proactive post-Brexit plans focused on ensuring successful trade agreements and their frictionless execution.

The country’s Food and Drink Federation, led by President Gavin Darby, has recently released a highly focused manifesto, outlining the FDF’s commitment to working in tandem with the new government to ensure the continued success of the United Kingdom’s thriving food and drink manufacturing industry. Recently, Gavin Darby presented an upbeat speech at the FDF’s annual President’s Reception, which would be his final speech as President.

Within this all-encapsulating speech, Gavin Darby reflected upon his tenure as the Food and Drink Federation’s President, the FDF’s commitment to the ongoing success of the industry, as well as the importance of a thriving sector post-Brexit.

Darby started by explaining that he had been delighted to commit his time to the FDF Presidency because he wanted to champion what he describes as the unprecedented energy, innovation, and entrepreneurship within the United Kingdom’s food and drink manufacturing industry. Conversely, Darby also recognised many of the tremendous and ongoing challenges facing the country’s food and drink industry.

Early within his assignment as President, Darby gave great emphasis to the concept of focus, and the ways in which having clear areas of focus could disproportionately ensure that the industry’s resources could support both the areas of opportunity and the areas of challenge. Traditionally industry associations have been pulled in multiple directions, and subject to changing financial and political climates, so focusing without distraction can be difficult.

For the food and drink industry, this has often been particularly challenging, with differing agendas that have sometimes inhibited collective progress. In a clever phrase, Darby describes this consequence as “being busy being too busy.” To counter this fragmented agenda, Darby suggested the swiftly implemented concept of focus.

With limited resources and an increasing demand for resources, the Food and Drink Federation decided to focus on four key areas: Brexit, health and wellbeing, skill development, and exports. By focusing on these key areas, the FDF team developed a comprehensive and cohesive strategy to grow the industry through these four areas.

With the recognition of impending and inevitable change within the industry, sometimes dictated by factors outside of immediate control, Darby also noted the parallel need for flexibility alongside these key areas of focus. This focus allowed the creation of some spare resources, enabling the FDF team to react to changing situations and be able to address them. Darby cited the plastic packaging crisis as an example.

Recognising the ongoing and potentially huge impact of Brexit on the food and drink industry, Darby explained the FDFs commitment to work alongside the government to ensure the continued success of the sector, during the political turmoil caused by Brexit. Darby, in particular, highlighted the importance of the radical raising of the FDFs profile over recent years.

This along with reaching out to many other related industry Associations had allowed the forming of a broad cross-industry coalition, which in turn allowed the FDF and its partners to have a significantly louder voice with government

In terms of health and wellbeing, Darby emphasised the ongoing need for proactive approaches from the food and drink industry. While supporting the notion that the food and drink industry has made significant strides in bringing to market healthier choices, Darby explored the ways in which a successful post-Brexit era can allow industry leaders to accelerate the focus on health and wellness initiatives.

While he emphasised the need to do much more, he was encouraged by the attitude of today’s industry leaders who he felt fully understood the industry’s need to lean into providing more and faster solutions to the obesity crisis.

In creating the future of the food and drink manufacturing industry, talented individuals must spearhead innovation, and commit to the technological developments needed to be competitive on a global scale. With an agenda to develop domestic talent and create employment within the industry, the Food and Drink Federation has outlined opportunities to foster youth involvement within the sector.

With the global need for food resources expected to rise between 50% to 70% by the year 2050, the global food manufacturing sector provides a secure job for young talent to enter, with many leadership opportunities available throughout the span of their careers.

In terms of accelerating the exporting of manufactured food and drink products, Darby reinforced the role of the Food and Drink Sector Council in creating a cohesive marriage between industry leaders, manufacturers, local government, and all parts of the supply chain to create successful exporting operations post-Brexit.

Through the FDF’s support of the Food and Drink Sector Council, the organisation will help to develop strategies to ensure even stronger export growth

Looking back during his time in the industry and over the last three years as President of the Food and Drink Federation, Gavin Darby recognised the constant of ongoing change.

Darby confidently stated his belief in the notion that the Food and Drink Federation now has developed to a position where it can both handle the pace of change and have a real impact on the outcomes. He highlighted the continual positive feedback he has had from Ministers, Civil Servants, Journalists, as well, of course, the Members, as evidence of the strength of today’s FDF.

In closing, he pointed to the FDFs Election Manifesto as a perfect reflection of the new FDF. A professional, focussed, fact-based, set of policy recommendations to present to the new government which will accelerate further the crucial food and drink industry.

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