Posted: 04/07/2022

Industry reacts with disappointment to Government’s Food Strategy Whitepaper

The Government says it wants to promote sustainable food production in the UK 
Credit: Luke Thornton on Unsplash 

Reaction from the independent trade to the Government’s food strategy has echoed the disappointment expressed by key players in the industry – but there could also be some potential positives for the speciality food market. 

Business leaders told FFD that the  Food  Strategy  Whitepaper released last month was a “huge missed opportunity” to back smaller producers, while others were surprised to see healthy eating initiatives cut back. 

Restaurateur Henry Dimbleby, commissioned to extensively research the National Food Strategy report three years ago, expressed his frustration that just half of his recommendations had been taken on. 

Paul Hargreaves, founder of wholesaler Cotswold Fayre, told FFD the document was “a huge disappointment”, with the Government appearing to favour big business interests over smaller food companies. 

The paper did not address Dimbleby’s suggestion for a strategy to cut meat and dairy consumption by 30%, as the Prime Minister promised “to not lecture people” on the subject. 

For Hargreaves, who also runs Flourish Food Hall, this was a major point missing from the plan. “Even our butcher here would encourage people to eat less meat but eat better meat when they do,” he said. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the Government would instead focus on incentivising the development of “alternative proteins” like edible algae, insects and lab-grown meat. 

Another key omission is Dimbleby’s proposed levy on food & drink high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) – to fund healthy eating initiatives for children. 

Shane Godwin, MD at Kent food hall Macknade, said that he was surprised to see the Government postpone the measure given the efficacy of the 2018 sugar tax to force change on big multinationals.  

Godwin added that the plans to increase domestic food production, focusing on innovation, technology and sustainability, was positive and an opportunity for independents. 

“Once we’ve ascertained whether there is a true market there, we’re small enough and agile enough to be able to do that,” he said. “People come here to find different and niche products – and if they tick the boxes of sustainability and ethics, we really do welcome it.” 

Among the whitepaper’s inclusions concerning the industry is a focus on future free trade agreements, which could drive low-quality imports. 

Paul Hargreaves said independents could benefit from this strategy, standing “with their head above the parapet” should the food standard go down in supermarkets, “but that’s not a reason to embrace the legislation. We would rather the standard was better overall.”  

By Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox 

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