Sandra Sullivan MBE, Director of the Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA)

“The coming year is arguably going to be one of the most challenging – and interesting – for the UK food & drink industry with Brexit on the horizon and the terms of our withdrawal from the EU to become clearer over the coming months. In the exporting world, companies are understandably looking for certainty around the future trading landscape as the UK leaves the EU.

“With a lack of clarity around what regulations will apply, potential issues around access to labour and an increase in the cost of raw materials, there are many areas of concern which will impact the sector. However, exporting is a viable way to grow your business. Rising incomes, urbanisation and modern retail mean that global demand will rise and the UK’s reputation for quality, safety and traceability in our food chain are strengths exporters can trade on.

“According to the Department for International Trade, companies that export see a 34% increase in productivity within their first year of exporting and are 11% more likely to survive if doing business overseas . For British brands, exporting outside the EU could provide an answer to help continued business growth and buffer against any shortfall as a result of Brexit.

“It’s also worth keeping in mind how innovative the home market is. British food & drink companies are quick to respond to trends in the market and as such we are considered a forward-thinking, adaptable nation; an attractive quality in an exporting partner. This is reflected in the fact that in 2017 exports of food & drink exceeded £22bn, up 9.7% on 2016. Exports of branded goods increased by 12.1% to reach £5.8 billion .

“Whilst certain products are recognised as British e.g. shortbread and stilton, modern UK cuisine is a fusion of many different cultures and traditions. The UK food industry has a reputation for innovation and high standards. It’s this innovation that we as a country are renowned for that we need to keep in firm focus as we move into 2019.

“That’s why events like IFE are more important than ever. It is invaluable for the industry to unite together, meet with old and new acquaintances and share insight and knowledge. Meeting with like-minded individuals from both the UK and internationally, as well as future-focused brands, helps to ensure the sector is keeping future growth keenly in its sights.

Green is the new black

“One of the anticipated hot trends for 2019 is sustainability; a topic which has been firmly put into the spotlight in recent years. The impact plastic has on the environment was brought home following the airing of Blue Planet II last year, which showed that in some areas there are one million pieces of plastic for every km of ocean .

“With consumers increasingly aware of their environmental footprint, and equally that of businesses, it’s crucial that the food & drink industry embraces new opportunities to show it is taking steps to better its packaging decisions. This is where IFE comes into its own – it’s co-located with Pro2Pac, the UK’s complete processing & packaging event for the food & drink industry – meaning visitors can experience a comprehensive overview of both new products as well as packaging and printing options.

Why I am excited to be an IFE Ambassador:

“Having been to every edition of the show for as long as I can remember, I am keen to encourage new, small producers looking to build on their distribution to showcase their products at IFE.”

The best piece of business advice I’ve been given

“If something is difficult or feels hard to do, don’t procrastinate – do it at the start of your day. Nothing is as bad as it seems once you commit to sorting it.”
The most innovative food & drink product I’ve tried recently

“I love the Little Moons Mochi Ice Creams for a treat – they are delicious Japanese mochi, with a modern twist. I am also enjoying snacking on Rude Health’s Multigrain crackers. They taste great and are guilt-free!”

A bit about me:

“I have 30 years’ experience working with UK food & drink companies in export markets and am currently Director of the Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), a not-for-profit trade association that offers its members export opportunities, advice and events to build their export contacts and knowledge.

“I’m also a co-founder of PS8 Ltd, the global exhibitions and events specialists in food & drink. PS8 organise the UK presence at many of the world's leading international food & drink trade shows and work with companies of all sizes to build their export presence.”