Time to analyse the current health of the UK Food & Drink sector


Adam Hardie

Adam Hardie

Business Development Partner and Head of Food & Drink

07 December 2023


In the last 12 months, food inflation reached a 45 year high pushing up energy, labour and raw material costs, with some food & drink manufacturers struggling with horrific raw material increases of 40%! But we all need to eat, the planet needs more food, and food & drink is an industry of resilient innovators. In our 2022/23 survey, 59% of respondents were either optimistic or very optimistic about the year ahead.

So how has 2023 been, and what is at the forefront of the sector as we move into 2024? How have the lingering challenges played out in 2023? Have any improved and have any worsened?

We’ve reached that time of year again where we launch our Johnston Carmichael Food & Drink Sector Survey and we seek to find answers to our questions by listening to businesses and their leaders, from across the UK.   

In 2023, we saw yet further geo-political instability in Europe and the Middle East, and wavering tensions in the Far East. The world experienced yet more ‘freak’ weather and climate scenarios, with heatwaves and floods across Europe and other parts of the world causing major disruption to our sector and the supply chain.

Raw material and energy costs have continued to constrain profitable growth. The cost-of-living crisis continues to impact on consumer spending as we see a notable increase in own label brands.

Through working with our own clients, we recognise that business is still extremely challenging, but many are thriving, through innovation, new product development, diversification, introducing technology and automation, expanding into new markets and by showing sheer determination and a dedicated spirit.

What is the Johnston Carmichael annual Food & Drink Survey?

Our survey looks back on 2023 and takes a cross-sector look at the industry. It is supported by our colleagues at HSBC, the Food and Drink Federation and the Food and Drink Exporter’s Association (FDEA).

It is an opportunity for business owners, leaders and senior directors to share their experiences and highlight what their businesses went through in 2023 and are going through as we move into 2024. Providing a chance to comment on the good and the bad, against several key topics.

This year we will continue to ask about general business health, performance and profitability, innovation and automation, and funding for growth. In addition, at the request of the sector, we are looking further into the international landscape along with our partners at FDEA, considering how businesses are approaching international growth, and also how Brexit is continuing to play out. We’re also digging deeper into people matters and broadening last year’s focus on sustainability to cover the wider Environment Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) agenda.

Why do we do it?

With over 500 food & drink clients across the UK, we offer advice and support across several service lines, with businesses of all sizes, from small start-ups to large corporates. As advisers, we are focused on understanding all the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

The better we understand the food & drink industry, then the deeper our insight and more effective we can be, bringing solutions to our clients.  

Despite the challenges of 2023, from Cornwall to Caithness there will be pockets of success from businesses across the various sub sectors of food & drink. Whilst igniting discussion and raising broader awareness of the challenges and trends that emerge from the survey is key, so too is celebrating and recognising success, as well as showcasing best practice.

Why should you complete it?

A cross sector and cross-country response will help us establish both the financial and operational state of the industry. Every business who completes the survey will be given a copy of the final report, which will contain analysis and commentary from our food & drink network of experts which we hope that you will find useful.

We also hope individuals and businesses will take some comfort from completing the survey and reading about the experiences of their peers during the past 12 months and the general outlook for 2024.

On 22 February, we will have a panel debate where we will strip back the survey results and have an open conversation, discuss key aspects, and look to the future. We hope to see you there so please save the date.

Use the button below to complete our survey - which closes on 17 January.


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