South Yorkshire’s hidden gem: food and drink manufacturing sector valued at £434m, reveals report

A new report reveals that South Yorkshire’s food and drink (F&D) manufacturing sector plays a significant role in the local economy, generating £434 million in economic output and providing 9,000 jobs across 170 businesses.

Despite its importance, the sector has been largely overlooked in economic development strategies that have focused on high-tech industries.

The report, carried out on behalf of Sheffield Hallam University’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE), found food and drink (F&D) manufacturing in South Yorkshire grew by 33% over the past seven years, faster than digital, advanced manufacturing, low carbon and health. As productivity for the sector for England is 40%, there also remains an opportunity for further growth.

The analysis also found the productivity of food and drink manufacturing workers matches that of key targeted sectors like advanced manufacturing and digital at approximately £65,000 per worker.

Including agriculture, catering, retail and wholesale, the total “agri-food” sector accounts for £1.58 billion in economic output and 68,500 jobs in South Yorkshire. This represents 11.6% of all jobs.

Nearby regions have even larger F&D manufacturing concentrations, suggesting potential to develop critical mass in the sector across the wider region.

Amanda Johnston, innovation manager at NCEFE, said: “With high productivity, faster growth than peer sectors and substantial presence across the wider region, food and drink manufacturing warrants greater strategic focus locally.

“Ongoing high food inflation provides an imperative to bolster this important driver of jobs and growth in South Yorkshire.”

Based in Attercliffe, NCEFE is a cutting-edge facility with a vision is to be internationally recognised for excellence in sustainable innovations for the global food system.

Since its launch in 2019, the Centre has focused on tackling food industry challenges such as productivity and sustainability through minimising waste and reducing energy use and addressing the health agenda through improved nutritional value of food. These innovations are essential if the sector is to grow and flourish.

The Centre partners with regional, national and international food and drink manufacturing businesses including Nestle, Quorn and Henderson’s Relish, on research and innovation projects.

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