Hors d’oeuvres

The ONS has reported a 12.7% increase in online retail sales over 2015. In light of this upward trend food and drink producers will need to ensure their online terms and conditions are up to date, whether in the context of advertising, consumer protection or for other reasons.


From April 2016 the National Living Wage will guarantee individuals over 25 £7.20 per hour, rising year-on-year to £9 per hour in 2020.

The food and drink sector is expected to be one of the most heavily affected by this change. How employers will react remains to be seen but with more than 200 employers being “named and shamed” for not paying the National Minimum Wage since October 2013, along with the increase of fines from £20,000 per employer regardless of the number of employees affected, to £20,000 per employee affected, it is clear that not paying the National Living Wage will not be an advisable option.


With a more mobile lifestyle, growth in the use and development of more flexible packaging – such as pouches and hybrid semi solid containers – is likely.  This will result in changes in production costs, recyclability and potential effect on logistics.  Contracts will need to be reviewed.

Suggestions du jour

Development of interactive packaging that communicates with mobile phones is likely to grow. Nutritional information is already being provided direct to mobile phones.  This is likely to grow.  Food labelling and advertising will need careful review.

Chef’s special

Towards the end of 2015, the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP announced the launch of the Great British Food Unit, joining together Defra and UKTI’s work, including through their international network in embassies. The group aims to make the government better coordinated and more effective at promoting exports, supporting inward investment and championing the excellence of British food and drink worldwide. In support of the “Year of British Food”, a series of events throughout the year will be backed by the launch of a new Food is GREAT campaign.

The Great British Food Unit will work to:

  • drive-up our food and drink exports by helping more UK businesses to sell their top quality produce around the world
  • treble the number of apprenticeships in the food and drink industry to bring new skills and ideas to ensure the pace of innovation continues to accelerate
  • increase the number of protected food names from 64 to 200. Celebrating the rich heritage and iconic traditions of with British food and building on the importance consumers place on provenance

Corporate structures and liability issues should be checked with lawyers.  Export contracts should be professionally drawn up to deal with overseas risks.

Protection for brands and new product designs will also be crucial to safeguard the growth in new markets.


Food security and food production will continue their rise up the agenda.

Allied to these issues is the western world’s profligate food waste.  The European Commission is expected in 2016 to develop a common EU methodology to measure food waste.  In addition, steps will be taken to clarify EU legislation on food waste and the by-products of food production.


The controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP) continues in its long journey towards a massive trade deal between the EU and the USA.  Amongst its wide ranging provisions are pesticides, food safety, and animal and plant health.  The degree of harmonisation and equivalency of standards between the EU and the USA are yet to be ironed out.

Wine selection (Rio-ja)

As we look forward to another Olympic Games, healthy diets are likely to have a renewed focus. Nutrition, hydration and physical well-being risk becoming an obsession for those who have overindulged or face sporting pinnacles.  Prosecutions against food and drink producers who exaggerate claims of nutritious, healthy or other enhancing qualities of their products will be on the up.

Bon appetit!

Gavin Poole is a partner in the corporate team.  If you need advice on any of the issues raised in this article please contact us by email corporate.cornwall@stephens-scown.co.uk or call 01872 265100.