By Daniel Hunter

British firms announced substantial UK and overseas investment at the British Business Embassy Retail, Food and Drink summit in London today (Thursday).

In a further boost to the sector, Vince Cable welcomed the appointment of Paul Walsh, CEO of Diageo plc, as a Business Ambassador for the food and drink industries. In this role he will help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) access global markets and grow their businesses overseas.

Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable said:

“The retail and food and drink sectors are major contributors to the UK economy. Retailers employ almost three million people, and food & drink is our single largest manufacturing sector — worth approximately £25 billion a year. Government is committed to working closely with firms in these sectors to stimulate growth and encourage new investment opportunities."

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“The food and drink industry is already our largest manufacturing sector, supported by many overseas companies, showing what a great place to do business Britain is. The size of our food and drink industry also makes it a key driver for national economic growth and job creation.

“British food is already known the world over for its quality, and with surging population growth and clear demand for British products, there are opportunities for our producers to tap into emerging markets. The appointment of the new Food Business Ambassadors underlines the Government’s commitment to this sector as a source of employment, growth and exports to help drive the UK’s economic recovery.”

UK Trade & Investment announced that it will present a new retail strategy, Delivering for the Global Consumer at the World Retail Congress 19-21 September. The strategy will support the sector by identifying the markets presenting the biggest opportunities for international development and expansion, and delivering a market access programme for the UK retail industry. Particular attention will be paid to the UK’s world-class multi-channel offer for the retail sector, and to opportunities presented by the increasing global focus on sustainability, health and wellness.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) Director General Stephen Robertson said:

“This signal that the Government wants to support the UK retail industry overseas is welcome and exactly what we’ve been calling for. We’re a significant exporter with overseas customers visiting UK retailers’ websites and flagship retailers driving growth through international expansion. David Cameron is right that all branches of Government should work together to promote UK retail investment. We’ll co-operate closely to develop the proposed international retail strategy but the ultimate test will be how much it really delivers progress in opening up markets for British retailers.”

Melanie Leech, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation said:

“Food and drink exports are a major UK economic success story and like this year’s Olympics on home soil, an achievement of which we can be truly proud. Today’s event is a great opportunity to showcase that success and to promote our export potential to a global audience.

“Exports are a key part of our joint vision with Government to grow our sector 20 per cent by 2020. We have a strong global reputation for producing great-tasting and innovative products, and we firmly believe our sector has great potential for exports growth and that our SMEs, who are the backbone of our sector, can make a significant contribution to this success in the right supportive business environment.”

The summit is one of 18 being organised by UK Trade & Investment during the Olympic and Paralympic Games to showcase British industry and promote international business opportunities. Speakers and participants include Marks and Spencer Chief Executive Marc Bolland, Diageo Chief Executive Paul Walsh, and Coca Cola Enterprises Global Chief Executive John Brock.

UK-international business

International business confirmed at the British Business Embassy today includes:

Nestlé, which is sponsoring the Retail, Food and Drink Summit, announced that it will unite its Nestlé Health Science operation in the UK, bringing together its core Healthcare Nutrition business with its Vitaflo operation in Liverpool. This will support the business in its ambition of becoming the UK’s number one trusted nutritional advisor to healthcare professionals, caregivers and patients. This consolidation of expertise marks another milestone in Nestlé’s programme of investment in the UK which will see the company invest £500 million manufacturing facilities over the next three years.

Boots is announcing plans to grow its portfolio in Thailand by over 50 per cent in the next three years from 200 to over 300 stores. It has also just become the first ever pharmacy chain in Thailand to have 100 per cent of their stores accredited by the Thai Pharmacy Council.

Tesco Lotus, Tesco’s business in Thailand, which has more than 1,000 stores, is opening three new state-of-the-art distribution centres. This substantial investment builds on the progress Tesco Lotus has already made to develop retail infrastructure in Thailand, will help Tesco Lotus build on its existing work with over 9,000 local Thai suppliers and SMEs, and will increase the company’s employment of local people. Tesco Lotus plans to recruit at least 9,000 additional staff in Thailand this year.

King of Shaves, a leading UK razor manufacturer, is announcing plans to enter the fast-growing Turkish market with an agreement to supply ten of its products to leading retail chain Gratis. The Beaconsfield-based firm will start supplying its King of Shaves grooming range in September and expects orders of around £200,000 in year one if the products sell well.

William Santus & Co Ltd has announced a new contract to sell its traditional sweets in Japan, with the possibility of further expansion in Asia — all thanks to a wedding. After supplying the firm's “Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls” as "favours" (guest gifts) for a wedding in Japan, a couple found the sweets were so popular with the Japanese that they approached William Santus with the idea of setting up a company to market them in Japan. Since launching in March, Tosei has generated such strong sales that William Santus & Co now expects first year export sales to Tosei to reach £70,000 and has identified potential for further growth in Asia, and therefore for expansion of its UK production and staff numbers.

Other participants in today’s event include Alliance Boots Executive Chairman Stefano Pessina, Nestlé Health Science President and Chief Executive Luis Cantarell, Kraft Foods Europe President Tim Cofer and Interactive Media in Retail Groups (IMRG) Managing Director John Andrews.

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