Inside the politics of feeding Britain

Where is the food supply chain and hospitality heading after the General Election and Brexit? Three experts at Peach 2020 pointed to some of the likely paths of direction.

Peach 2020 was held three weeks out from a General Election, and amid ongoing uncertainty about Brexit—so perhaps the clearest conclusion about politics’ role in the industry is that more changes and challenges lie ahead.

In a session about the future of the food chain, Henry Dimbleby (pictured below-left)—co-founder of LEON and the man charged by the government to create a new food strategy for England—set out some of the likely challenges to production and supply, including food security, the climate crisis and geopolitical risks. But he said the sector was generally in good shape. “We have a food system now that we should be incredibly proud of. It gives us a variety, quantity and quality of food that would have been unimaginable to previous generations.”

Out-of-home eating and drinking businesses will be under pressure to contribute to debates about food supply and eating-related health issues like obesity in 2020, Dimbleby added—and contributing to the National Food Strategy (sign up at is a good way to get involved. Change on a scale not seen since the Second World War, when domestic production massively increased, could be on the way. “We rose to the challenge once and we’ll do so again,” he said. “The food and drink and hospitality sectors have transformed in my lifetime, and there’s an opportunity to lead the world on sustainable farming and innovation… to promote the culture of great British food.”

Philip Hambling (pictured right), head of food and farming at the National Farmers’ Union, told Peach 2020 that British farming should be at the heart of future food strategies. “Everyone eats and therefore has an interest in food—and by definition an interest in agriculture. We’re going to have ten billion people [in the world] to feed and we’ve only got one planet—so where are we going to produce it all?” He added: “There’s got to be import substitution opportunities, especially given the resources that we’re blessed with. Other countries have invested in infrastructure and expertise to grow really high-quality products at a competitive price.”

British agriculture can set new world standards on ethics, welfare and trading, help to tackle obesity and support efforts to cut carbon footprint, Hambling said—and technology will be pivotal in this work. “We’ve never been able to share so much information and data in the supply chain through the devices in our pockets.”

UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the National Food Strategy was an important vehicle for change in the sector. “The silver lining from Brexit is that we’ve now joined up the food supply chain—the government has seen [how things connect from] farm to fork. It’s a transformational moment in policy-making. This Food Strategy allows us to talk across government the issues that matter most, and get food safety, security and standards at the heart of a national debate.”

Whatever the outcome of the General Election, UKHospitality will be making sure that the out-of-home eating and drinking sector has a seat at the table. “We’re talking about he transformational and regenerative impact of hospitality. [If government wants] To bring people back to high streets and town centres that have been deprived, you are going to need good quality eating and drinking out, social and community spaces and third spaces… there’s a huge opportunity for us to talk to government about how we can help them achieve that objective.”

Another post-Election emphasis for UKHospitality will be root and branch reform of business rates to help unlock business investment and revive high streets. “The message we’ve given to the main parties is that that has to happen very quickly,” Nicholls said.

CGA’s Peach 2020 Conference was supported by platinum partners Asahi, Bookatable by Michelin,, Coca-Cola European Partners, Coffer Corporate Leisure, CPL Online, Diageo, Fourth, Groupon, Omnivore and Zonal. Network partners were Casual Dining, Chapman Ventilation, Fishbowl, Freeths, Garden Gourmet, Majestic Commercial, Reynolds, RSM, Shield Safety Group and Yumpingo.

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