UK prime minister Theresa May officially triggered Article 50 on Wednesday, opening the doors of uncertainty within the food and drink industry, according to exhibitors at ife 2017.
“Nobody knows what the outcome of Brexit will be, but I am certainly very nervous about it,” said James M Walker, of Walkers Shortbread Limited.
Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said currency devaluation will be the biggest problem.
Erwan Inizan, sales director of Bridor UK & IE, concurred, saying that currency fluctuations were already effecting the French bread bakery giant.
And while prices may not “catastrophically increase, all sectors will have to face price increases,” added Wright.
Unique crunchy pasta snack Pastino’s MD, Giuliano Mai said: “It’s going to affect small companies, like ours, that import raw materials, particularly from the EU.”
The good and the bad
According to Brexit-critic and former deputy minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, Brexit will have far-reaching effects on the British food industry.
While some manufacturers will hope that Brexit leads to the opening of new markets, the reality is that exporting will become more complicated and difficult in the short term, he wrote in his third Brexit challenge paper, published in October 2017.
Matthew Ford of pork scratching-maker Mr Trotter Ltd (and Great British Menu judge) agreed it will make the possibility of expanding into Europe more difficult.
Wright also noted it will have a big influence on dealings with Ireland, which is “massively our biggest export customer”.
Consumers feeling the crunch
Clegg also wrote that consumers will have to get used to higher prices even beyond the impact of the falling value of the pound.
Brexit reader survey results
BakeryandSnacks ran a reader survey last year inviting readers to share their views on the Brexit vote.
However, NI André Chong, MC of Manning Implex, said Brexit offers a “unique challenge” as you can’t just pass currency fluctuations onto the consumer.
On a positive note, many of the ife exhibitors said Brexit was a reality that has to be accepted.
Both Tony Goodman, CEO of Ten Acre, and Jenna McDill, business development of Orkney Bakery said that “we all have to just get on and embrace it”.