The largest food & beverage companies in the UK

23 October 2018 3 min. read

The UK's ten largest food & drinks companies generate revenues of more than £22 billion. Associated British Foods, Boparan Holdings and Arla Foods are the largest players in the space, best known for products such as Kingsmill, Fox’s Biscuits, and Lurpack respectively.

The 30th annual Grocer’s Food and Drink survey by OC&C Strategy Consultants has analysed the latest available company accounts of the UK’s food and soft drinks companies to provide a detailed insight into the overall performance of the sector, as well as which firms are the largest in the market. Among the boldest findings of the poll, in collaboration with The Grocer, was the contention that Brexit is driving growth but not profit for the UK's food and drink industry.

According to the researchers, the revenue growth for UK’s top food and drink producers such as Nestle UK and Arla Foods grew on average by 7.5% in 2017 – the highest rate since 2009. The researchers suggested that this was likely due to an export boom riding on the weakened pound, with the UK’s currency taking a pummelling since the 2016 referendum. This led investors from overseas to treat the following transition period as an opportunity to purchase British products at bargain prices, leading to a 14% increase in exports by UK firms in the food and drinks sector.

The largest food & beverage companies in the UK (£ / million)

While this unforeseen situation seems to have boosted the sector, however, there are a number of headwinds on the horizon which the industry may still have to face. At the moment, inflation in raw materials caused by sterling devaluation has contrarily squeezed producers' profit margins, declining by 0.5% points to 6.2% as they pay more for important constituent parts for their production lines. Meanwhile, post-Brexit trade rules and export tariffs will likely cause a fall in the trade which has recently buoyed the UK’s food and drinks industry.

Commenting on the analysis, Will Hayllar, a Partner at OC&C, said, UK food and drink producers are beginning to feel the ripple effects from Brexit, which has been successful in boosting revenue growth. However, the inflationary environment has significantly impacted margins, which have fallen below the long-term average. With a great deal of uncertainty around labour provision and the regulatory environment, companies must be on the front foot and investing to boost productivity.”

The largest food & beverage company in the UK is Associated British Foods, owner of Kingsmill among a host of other household brands, with an annual turnover of £3.3 billion. Boparan Holdings, which famously produces Fox’s biscuits, follows closely behind with £3.2 billion, while Arla – the largest producer of dairy products in Scandinavia – records a UK turnover of around £2.5 billion.

The world’s largest sandwich producer Greencore Convenience Foods is the last member of the food & beverage top 10 to top the £2 billion mark, while Müller UK & Ireland, the producers of a well-known series of yoghurt and rice-based deserts, rounds off the top five with a turnover of £1.9 billion. Completing the top 10 are Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Bakkavor, Mondelez UK and Nestle UK.