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Safeguarding success in the Food and Drinks Sector

Navigating legal complexities
3 mins 30


October 2023

The food and drinks sector is characterised by constant change. Ongoing shifts in consumer preferences, the emergence of cutting-edge technologies, and evolving market dynamics, demand that this industry remains in a constant state of transformation and adaptation.

Here are some thoughts from Rebecca Cusworth, our Head of Legal around some of the top challenges affecting our industry in 2023.

Allergens and mislabelling incidents

Recalls stemming from allergen mislabelling often occur due to the inadvertent omission of allergen information or the inclusion of incorrect allergen details on product packaging. These errors are entirely avoidable when a company implements robust validation systems and ensures that its staff undergo annual training to maintain proper allergen management protocols.

Regulatory changes

Frequent changes in food safety regulations and labelling requirements can pose challenges for companies in terms of compliance and product reformulation. This includes regulations related to allergen labelling, nutrition labelling, and sustainability.

Food integrity

Food contamination, cross-contamination, and quality control remain persistent and significant challenges within the industry. These challenges affect every stage of the supply chain, with particular emphasis on food processing and manufacturing facilities. Within food manufacturing facilities, maintaining precise temperature and humidity levels is crucial to preserving product integrity and safety. Additionally, when a facility produces multiple types of products, the risk of cross-contamination becomes a paramount concern. Inadequate handling or cleaning processes can jeopardise the quality and safety of products, emphasising the importance of implementing the right equipment and protocols to prevent cross-contamination and maintain rigorous quality control standards.

Current energy crisis

Like all businesses, companies in the food and drinks sector have been impacted by the recent surge in energy prices. Optimising industrial space to manage rising energy costs is essential. Given the temperature regulations inherent to this industry, it becomes even more critical to take proactive measures to mitigate the impact of rising energy expenses.

Plastic elimination

Plastic has emerged as a significant focal point in the drive to adopt more environmentally sustainable business practices. Excessive consumption and improper disposal of plastic have surfaced as prominent challenges confronting food and drink managers today. Consumers increasingly prioritise companies that take active steps to reduce single-use plastic, compelling those in the food and drink industry to adapt and align with these evolving sustainability expectations.

Consumer preferences and trends

Consumer preferences are continuously evolving, with increased demand for healthier, organic, and plant-based products. Companies that fail to adapt to changing consumer trends may face market share challenges.

Health and wellness

Rising awareness of health and wellness has led to increased scrutiny of the ingredients used in food and drink products. Companies that use artificial additives, excessive sugar, or unhealthy fats may face reputational and regulatory risks.

Labour issues

Labour shortages, disputes over wages, and heightened worker safety concerns have the potential to significantly disrupt both production and distribution processes within the food and drink industry. These disruptions can exert a considerable impact on the industry’s capacity to meet consumer demand, potentially leading to delays, reduced output, and logistical challenges throughout the supply chain. Addressing these labour-related issues through effective human resource management, fair compensation practices, and robust safety measures is essential to ensure the industry can continue to provide products efficiently and safely.

Cybersecurity threats

As companies increasingly depend on digital systems for essential functions like supply chain management and the handling of customer data, the food and drinks industry faces a growing and critical challenge in the form of cybersecurity threats. These threats, which encompass data breaches and ransomware attacks, carry substantial risks. Data breaches can expose sensitive information, including customer details and proprietary data, leading to reputational damage and potential legal consequences. Ransomware attacks, on the other hand, can cripple operations by encrypting crucial data and demanding a ransom for its release. Therefore, safeguarding digital infrastructure and sensitive data is paramount. Robust cybersecurity measures, regular vulnerability assessments, employee training, and proactive incident response planning are vital to protecting against cyber threats and maintaining the integrity and continuity of food and drink operations.

In summary, thriving in the ever-evolving food and drinks sector means that businesses must remain agile, fostering adaptability in the face of dynamic market conditions.

  • Embracing innovation is crucial to stay competitive and meet the evolving demands of consumers.
  • Prioritising consumer preferences, sustainability, and resilience are fundamental principles.
  • Aligning products and practices with consumer expectations, reducing environmental impacts, and building robust operational resilience can set a business apart.

Staying well-informed about market trends and regulatory shifts is imperative. This knowledge enables companies to proactively respond to changes, ensuring their on-going success in this rapidly changing industry.

If you need any regulatory food or non food support, we offer specialist services including UK, EU and US labelling advice and training.

See how we’ve provided legal support for an international retailer here. This is just one our specialist legal services, see what else we can help you with here.


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