Brexit leaves a sour taste

Last week I visited Cadbury. It’s been two years since my last visit because of all the Covid restrictions.

The UK Food and Drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in this country but it’s highly competitive with thin profit margins and many challenges. Chocolate manufacturers are still suffering the consequences of the Boris Brexit with a 14% drop in exports costing nearly £10 billion.

One bright spot might be that consumption has doubled in India and Bournville is working on an audacious plan to make chocolate that doesn’t melt. They face rising energy bills and increased commodity and transport costs. From October the government introduces more obesity regulations. Promotions and advertising will be restricted, no more ‘buy one get one free’ and no advertising on TV before 9pm. Not sure if they’re across children’s viewing habits.

It’s worrying that ministers also plan to allow councils to issue fixed penalty notices for failure to comply with regulations. If you thought Covid created a legal minefield, watch this.

Having promised not to change the quality or taste of their chocolate, Mondelez have been forced to reduce the size of some bars to comply with government recommendations.

Ministers argue it’s about improving health and cutting NHS costs. As Chair of the All-Party Group for a Fit and Healthy Childhood, I’m all for that but I think the figures look shaky and I worry about the threat to jobs.

Meanwhile, people at Bournville are working flat out to improve productivity and reduce waste. They’ve adopted the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen, meaning change for the better. It promotes continuous improvement in all aspects of the plant. It comes alongside a £15 million investment in the latest equipment. James and Ryan, a former apprentice, were happy to explain the system and proud to be part of the mission to retain jobs and boost production so that Bournville becomes the most productive part of the group.

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