There has never been a more lucrative or exciting time for the food and drink manufacturing industry. Now worth more than automotive and aerospace businesses combined, this sector remains at the forefront of British innovation - but how do we make sure it stays that way?
Tim Foster, Professor of Food Structure at the University of Nottingham, has ordered manufacturers to continue investing in research in order to reinforce excellent standards across the industry.
In a new paper, the academic claims that - despite generating £112 billion of value for the UK economy each year and employing almost 4 million people - the food and drink sector is still being held back by several scientific barriers. For example, he suggests researchers focus on developing novel processing routes capable of valorising new sources of biomass which will allow them to produce healthy products customised to the needs of the consumer.
Furthermore, Dr Foster is adamant the industry needs to focus on boosting efficiency. He says manufacturing and supply chains could be more closely integrated via the use of efficient systems such as smart monitoring.
Nevertheless, upon reviewing the last five years in the food and drink industry, Dr Foster is satisfied that sufficient investments are being made into technology. He notes that regular research conferences and workshops are bringing to fruition a whole host of innovative ideas, most recently 3D printing of food.
Increased activity in the area of food research has also spelled good news for educational institutions, with the University of Nottingham receiving an impressive £20 million investment into its work with the industry. The University of Birmingham also received £12 million.
Moving forward, Dr Foster claims the future of manufacturing lies in thriving research communities. With a little innovation and creativity, he argues UK manufacturers can boost efficiency, reduce resources and continue to pioneer the global food industry.