Growth shoots seen in Northamptonshire’s food and drink sector as strong manufacturing and logistics links lead to major job creation.

A new report published reveals growth in the UK’s ‘Cereal Central’ in Northamptonshire, with against-the-grain growth in food and drink-related employment. The report is launched today at an event bringing together food and drink businesses and support organisations from across the county, with Weetabix CEO Giles Turrell giving the keynote speech.

The report, which captures the current scale of the food and drink sector in the county, home to some of the UK’s best-known food and drink brands, such as Weetabix and Carlsberg UK, was commissioned by Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP) – the organisation set up to lead and provide direction for the county’s future growth and prosperity.

Key findings of the report include:

• Against a national backdrop of declining employment in the food and drink sector (three per cent), Northamptonshire has bucked the trend, recording a rise of five per cent, according to the latest ONS figures. And it seems that the green shoots of recovery may be set to continue, with business leaders in the county predicting a further 3,500 new jobs will be created by 2021.

• With over 10 per cent of the UK’s wheat stored, milled and processed within its boundaries, Northamptonshire is at the heart of the UK’s wheat industry. The report found that, of the fourteen per cent of the jobs in the county that are linked to the food and drink sector, half are reliant on wheat.

• In addition, barley is a major economic revenue stream, with 16 per cent of the UK’s brewing capacity based in the county, making it the most active county in brewing. Big names, such as Carlsberg UK, as well as a number of specialist firms such as Hoggleys and Frog Island have helped cement this position.

• One of the principal factors in the growth of the sector is believed to be the convenient, central location of the county. Food manufacturers are able to reduce fuel and other costs associated with transporting bulky raw materials, such as cereals. Being at the heart of the UK’s ‘Golden Triangle’ of logistics (M1, M6 and M42 road network), most of the UK is within easy reach. Companies based in the area taking advantage of such transport links include Tesco, Coca-Cola, Morrisons, Asda, British Pepper & Spice and Whitworths. Whilst Sainsbury’s has recently announced its new distribution centre will be based at the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT).

• Food and drink producers in Northamptonshire currently number over twice the national average and the industry is worth an estimated £1.5 billion Gross Value Add (GVA) to Northamptonshire’s economy.

Rob Purdie, Executive Director at NEP, commented, “It’s been a challenging year for many food and drink manufacturers, due to poor harvests. Add to this consumer demand for cheaper prices and rising fuel and transport costs and it’s no surprise that many companies are having to look at changing their approach. We are seeing that many are considering where best to base their operations to take advantage of better transport links to reduce costs associated with transporting both bulky and heavy raw materials and end products.

“We believe the growth in Northamptonshire’s food and drink sector is directly linked to this renewed focus on reducing supply chain costs and, as the report shows, the trend looks like it will continue, as the cost of transport costs continues to rise,” Purdie added.

Giles Turrell, CEO at Weetabix added, “Weetabix is very proud to be celebrating its 80th birthday this year from the same site in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, that it commenced production in 1932. We make 70 million Weetabix a week and source our grain from farms within 50-miles of Burton Latimer. Our farmers are a key partner for us and it helps the local economy too.”

David Bodily of Carlsberg UK said: “We are proud to be based in such a forward thinking and enterprising county.  We have been brewing, marketing and distributing beer in Northampton since the 1970s and have recently invested £20m in a brand new bottling plant which is set to open in the New Year. This not only secures our future in the county, but creates many jobs for the local community.”

Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP)

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