Food & drink sector challenges

July 31, 2015
automated production line in modern dairy factory **Note, purposely blurry

Red tape, price pressures and issues around staffing are some of the key sticking points that impact on the potential growth of the region’s food and drink businesses, according to research carried out by the Marches LEP.

The research, which was carried out in order to support applications to the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, was aimed at identifying the strategic needs and priorities of the sector and in doing so, help determine where future funding should be focused in order to create the greatest benefit.
SME sized businesses including food and drink manufacturers and primary food producers were invited to take part in the research with a number of key issues being identified on multiple occasions. Notably, legislation and regulatory issues were regularly cited, as were issues around pricing, especially those exacerbated by margin-conscious supermarkets, whilst the recruitment and retention of trained staff was also regularly seen as a challenge to those in the sector.
In fact, 72% of those citing these issues went as far as to claim they were definite barriers to growing or diversifying their businesses, along with issues around funding and the high level of investment often required to realise growth.
Commenting on the research findings, Gill Hamer, Director of the Marches LEP, said: “The food and drink sector is of vital importance to the Marches, contributing at least £1.9 billion to the region’s economy (2011) and employing at least 9,000 people. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that we are clear on where future funding should be focused.
“Knowing the areas that those in the agri food and drink sectors would welcome further grant funding in is invaluable as we seek to support them to realise their true potential whilst both maintaining and growing their invaluable contribution, not just within the region, but also nationwide.”
Any business operating within the agri food and drink sectors throughout Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin who would like to comment on, or add to, the research findings and in doing so help shape future funding opportunities should contact Lisa Ashby at Shropshire Council on

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: | email:

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: | email:

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact:

For any finance queries please contact:

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact:

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