UK food and drink exports continue to grow in 2014

The Food and Drink Federation has reported that UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports have continued to grow in 2014, rising to £6.5bn in the first six months of the year – an increase of 4.8% on the same period in 2013.

Exports performed well in both non-EU markets (+12%) and in the EU (+2.5%), despite pressures such as stronger sterling and falling EU GDP working against British exporters.

FDF’s latest update also found that the food and non-alcoholic drink trade balance improved by 4.9% to a deficit of £12bn – a welcome news in contrast to the trade balance for all UK products worsening by 84% in the first half of 2014. Including alcoholic drinks, total food and drink exports were down 0.5% on 2013, largely due to a rare decline in whisky exports as growth slowed in Asia and other leading markets.

Ireland and France remain the UK’s biggest food and drink export markets by value. By value gained however, Algeria shot into second place as exports of skimmed milk powder (+£37m) and cereals (+13m) drove a +429% increase in sales to the market.

Value added products performed well in both the EU (+4.7%) and non-EU (+10.2%) and the top five best performing value added products generated export gains of £208m.

To help boost international trade, FDF and Open to Export have launched Food & Drink Export Month on opentoexport.com. A joint initiative between Open to Export, Government and industry, the Food and Drink Export Month runs from 15 September – 10 October and features free-of-charge live webinars, guides and case studies, designed to help small and medium-sized food and drink companies grow their exports business.

FDF’s Economic and Commercial Services Director, Steve Barnes, says: “Against a backdrop of challenging conditions in food retail in the UK and overall goods exports falling, food and non-alcoholic drink exports continue to grow well and individual products to certain markets are experiencing rapid growth.

“Our brands have been working hard to develop new opportunities in international markets and to help businesses boost exports further we have been working with Government and others to introduce a raft of new resources and expert advice on opentoexport.com this autumn.”

Poor pallet hygiene poses threat to UK economy

"UK businesses using wood packaging materials for shipping goods could be putting the health and safety of staff at serious risk and causing untold damage to the UK economy”, says Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of Goplasticpallets.com.

This warning comes after a staff member for the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, fell ill at one of its depots after handling packaging on goods imported to the UK.

GMB, the union for staff at Amazon, is convinced that the illness is linked to insects carried in the packaging and has called for the company to conduct a thorough, independent risk assessment of the dangers of insect contamination in wood and other packaging of goods imported from abroad.

Jim continues: “Although all wood packaging used for transporting goods into the EU or out of Portugal (a known pinewood nematode area) must be heat treated in accordance with ISPM 15 regulations to kill off pests, it’s clear that insect invasions from abroad remain a very real threat to the UK economy.

“In May this year, the Ecological Society of America discovered the emerald ash borer in the wood packing material of goods imported into North America. This case surely strengthens the argument for enforcing stricter safety checks worldwide for verifying ISPM 15 compliancy and for extending ISPM 15 by making it compulsory to heat treat all wood pallets and crates moving within EU member states – something the European Commission is in the process of reviewing.

“Poor pallet hygiene however is a much bigger topic than insect contamination alone. Mould and bacteria are other common signs that pallets are being kept in unsanitary conditions which, when using plastic varieties, can be easily combatted with regular cleaning as plastic pallets are 100% water resistant. Timber pallets are much harder to preserve as even kiln dried varieties contain some moisture, making them susceptible to mould growth and blue stain fungus.

“The timber industry is fully aware of the hygiene issues with wooden pallets and to their credit TIMCON – the Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation – has launched a new Essential Guide Pack** for drying timber pallets to keep them mould-free.

“Guide or no guide, the fact remains that wooden pallets are still inherently more likely to harbour contaminants than plastic ones – the only variety that can be repeatedly steam cleaned and reused guaranteeing optimum hygiene throughout its working life."

Hong Kong and China food imports from California to exceed $4...

According to the US Department of Commerce, Californian food producers are on target to export more than $4 billion worth of fresh produce, health & organic foods, and fine wines to Hong Kong and China in 2014. Last year, consumers ate and drank their way through $3.899 billion worth of Californian food products, a 19.5% increase on 2012. The overall rise in consumption spending and demand for higher quality food products should lead to a similar double-digit increase by the end of 2014.

Hong Kong and China shoppers are discriminating more and more about their food purchases. They are actively seeking out more information about nutrition, sustainability and safety, which is driving demand for higher quality products. Quality tends to be associated with “country of origin”, something that consumers respond to when making purchasing decisions. California and US food products are positioned as high quality, which helps to explain the growth of US food exports across greater China.

Hong Kong's annual HK Food Expo 2014 will again see leading Californian food and drink producers displaying rich and diverse produce from The Golden State. There will also be opportunities for food sampling and wine tasting sessions throughout the show at the California, USA Pavilion, at booth 5F-F11.

Jeff Williamson, Director, California State Trade and Export Promotion, says, “The growing number of food and wine products imported to HK and China is a tremendous achievement of California's produce gaining acceptance, at an ever increasing rate, with the discerning palates of consumers in Hong Kong and China. Rising exports reaffirms a long-standing commitment to provide a diverse, quality product portfolio to customers."

Food Expo 2014 will see Californian exporters showcasing quality-assured food and beverage products such as organic foods, nuts, premium chocolate and candies, baby foods, wines, cheeses and other manufactured food items. Well represented this year are producers from the confectionary sector with premium chocolates and snacks made with real fruit extracts to satisfy the traditionally sweet-toothed Hong Kong and China consumers. The taste for chocolate and treats is such that China is now the world's second largest confectionary market.

Other exhibitors from California at HK Food Expo 2014 include Initiative Foods, Drunken Dragon, North America Food Company, Watlington Foods LLC, Guglielmo Winery, Premier Organics and Poindexter Nut.

Superb turnout for Energy & Environment Expo

Over two thousand energy and environment professionals attended the launch of UBM Live’s Energy & Environment Expo at London's ExCeL. An impressive 10% of attendees were from overseas, with a strong turnout from Europe and the Far East.

Fergus Bird, Group Event Manager, UBM Live, says, “I am very proud of a fantastic first year. We had an excellent quality of turnout and we can proudly state we are a serious route to market. Managing the footprint of our existing building stock has long been overlooked but now we have a new sector of energy managers and facilities managers that are engaged and hungry for solutions and products.”

All in all, a strong mix of suppliers including manufacturers, software providers, waste treatment companies were present. Alongside were a healthy mix of end users, specifiers and influencers: estate managers, civil engineers, retailers, diplomatic and foreign government representatives, academics and management consultants.

The international contingent saw a particularly good turnout from China, Taiwan, Korea, Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. There was an interesting mix of senior management and middle-management in attendance, with the hands on role of project manager prevalent amongst those from overseas.

The show, dedicated to energy and resource management in buildings, was part of the Protection & Management Series 2014. Show organisers recorded a strong influx of visitors into the exhibition from the co-located events of IFSEC International, FIREX International, Facilities Show, Safety & Health Expo and Service Management Expo.

The event hosted two dedicated seminar theatres, which featured experts and specialists presenting on core issues facing the industry. Over the three days, forty speakers covered a wide range of topics including the RHI for which DECC had a dedicated theatre. The surrounding exhibition accommodated 66 companies who had come from all parts of the country and from abroad.

Historically, the event had its roots in Energy Solutions, the highly successful energy management show at the London Olympia and the energy management zone at Facilities Show, the world’s largest dedicated event for facilities management.

NaturaLINE trial wins innovation award

Motor Transport honoured Carrier Transicold with its prestigious Innovation Award for a joint project with Sainsbury’s to trial the world’s first temperature-controlled trailer using CO₂.

Labelled as “a potential game changer” by the Motor Transport judging panel, the two-year project launched in August 2013 uses a modified version of Carrier Transicold’s NaturaLINE refrigeration system, which was initially developed for ocean container shipping. The 10.8 metre, insulated, urban distribution trailer delivers frozen produce to stores using NaturaLINE’s non-ozone depleting CO₂ refrigerant, which has a Global Warming Potential of one.

In contrast, most temperature-controlled systems on commercial vehicles use conventional refrigerants such as R-404A (a fluorinated gas) with a GWP of 3920. GWP is the measurement used to show the equivalent kilograms of CO₂. The GWP of CO₂ is lower than other natural refrigerants, such as propane, so even in the event of a leak, the use of CO₂ adds no new environmental risk.

David Appel, president, Carrier Transicold & Refrigeration Systems, says, “Congratulations to Sainsbury’s for taking a bold step forward to reduce its carbon footprint by successfully demonstrating the application of the NaturaLINE CO₂ refrigeration system for road use. The trial’s success is great news for Sainsbury’s and the environment.”

The award was received at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London by Victor Calvo, managing director, Carrier Transicold EMEA, Justin Grace, managing director, Carrier Transicold northern Europe, and Nick Davies, head of transport operations, Sainsbury’s. Justin Grace says, “We’re delighted Carrier's natural leadership in environmental technologies has been recognised with this award. The NaturaLINE unit trial marks one of the most significant innovations in temperature-controlled road transport for more than a decade.”

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