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Congratulations to DEFRA for winning Campaign of the Month

DEFRA ran the Food is GREAT campaign, which was jointly developed by government and industry to increase UK food and drink export ambitions by £2.9bn by 2020

The food and farming industry is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector – larger than cars and aerospace combined. The industry employs more than 3.9m people across the UK (1 in 8), and, in 2016, contributed more than £112bn to the economy.

Back in 2016, food and drink exports achieved a record value of £20.1bn. Drawing on this momentum, the UK Food and Drink International Action Plan for 2016 to 2020 was developed jointly by government and industry to increase UK food and drink export ambitions by £2.9bn, by 2020.

Though UK food and drink exports were on the rise in 2016 – with around 1 in 5 food and drink companies exporting – the top exporters were predominantly larger companies, accounting for more than 94% of total food and drink exports (by value). By comparison, 86% of UK exporters assumed to be small-and-medium sized (SME) companies, were responsible for just 6% of food and drink exports. Compared to other sectors, it was clear that food and drink SMEs were still not maximising their export potential.

Having commissioned research to identify a number of perceived barriers to exporting for food and drink businesses, we concluded that some of these barriers can be overcome through marketing and communications. Showcasing the benefits of exporting, highlighting the support the government offers, and busting some myths about food and drink are effective ways to encourage new businesses – and current exporters – to export more, create jobs and bring money to the UK economy.

Internationally, there was demand for UK food and drink but more could be done to increase positive perceptions about the UK’s offer amongst buyers and consumers. For example, positive perceptions of UK food and drink remained low, and only 5% of international tourists listed ‘going out to eat/drink’ as a reason for visiting the UK, according to research on how the world views Britain’s food and drink.

Communications has a very important role to play in raising demand for UK food and drink among international buyers, investors and consumers – particularly in key markets like the USA and China. A cross-government campaign supported by the industry was the best way to meet the export ambition set out in the International Action Plan for Food and Drink and to support this important sector.

Although a lot of food and drink communications activity was happening across Whitehall and within industry, a lack of shared strategic objectives for campaigns resulted in missed opportunities and limited impact. A clear, streamlined communications campaign was needed to bring food and drink communications under a single umbrella and to support the delivery of the UK Food and Drink International Action Plan.



  • To encourage 500 UK food and drink businesses to export by March 2018.
  • To increase demand of UK food and drink amongst international buyers and investors in key markets (USA and China) and to secure a 25:1 return on investment target in export wins by March 2018.
  • To increase positive perceptions of UK food and drink amongst international consumers in key markets (USA and China) and to increase the value of UK food and drink in VisitBritain’s UK brand tracker by March 2018.


  • UK food and drink SMEs across nations and regions, with a particular focus on the South West, Yorkshire and the Devolved Administration in year one.
  • International food and drink buyers, distributors and investors in USA and China
  • International consumers in the USA and China mirroring VisitBritain’s key audiences (identified as ‘cultural adventurers’ and ‘affluent trendsetters’).


  • We strategically aligned with the cross-government GREAT campaign, having identified an opportunity to support its objectives.
  • Food is GREAT brought together cross government communications priorities and worked to a single strategic programme for the first time.
  • The campaign was led by Defra’s Strategic Communications team and delivered in partnership with the Department for International Trade, VisitBritain, FCO and GREAT.
  • Food is GREAT leveraged industry partners such as AHDB, FDF, WSTA and global brands (e.g. Walkers Shortbread, Sipsmith and Fever-Tree).


Food is GREAT activated virtual cross-government teams in the UK, China and the USA to deliver the objectives with maximum impact and efficiency.
Driving UK food and drink exports:

  • Undertook research on perceived barriers to export to identify the most-effective message to encourage food and drink businesses to export.
  • Joined up with Exporting is GREAT to run a PR campaign to highlight the benefits of exporting food and drink and the support the government offers, achieving a monthly average of 20 pieces of coverage in regional media.
  • Organised events to raise export ambition among food and drink SMEs.
  • Made sure the Devolved Administrations were part of every campaign moment. We also designed a mini-campaign strategy for Scotland to highlight the benefits of the Union.

Increasing global demand B2B:

  • Created a cross-government, evidence-based narrative to ensure all departments used the same language to refer to the UK food and drink industry and a hospitality toolkit to specifically engage with UK embassies overseas.
  • Activated big campaign moments in New York, Shanghai and Cologne and hosted international buyers in the UK to showcase the best of the UK food and drink offer.
  • The campaign was present in major international trade shows including IFE, Anuga, Best of British, FHC and Food Matters Live.
    Increasing global demand B2C:
  • Undertook digital campaigns in China and the USA to raise business and consumer demand for UK food and drink.
  • Hosted international influencers in the UK who shared our food and drink experiences with their audiences in the USA and China, reaching millions in both markets.
  • The @GreatBritishFood account created a 16k strong Instagram community that celebrates UK food and drink.


The Food is GREAT campaign works to GREAT’s 25:1 return on investment target. Campaign success was measured through the following indicators:

  • Long-term export wins as a result of campaign activity
  • Partner funding and value in kind
  • Digital campaign results including reach, engagement, click through rates
  • Number of food and drink businesses engaged
  • Value of UK food and drink in VisitBritain’s UK brand tracker


Since the campaign launched in March 2017, Food is GREAT has seen enormous success. Food and drink exports were worth more than £22 billion in 2017/18. Government trade support in 2017/18 contributed to export deals of over £1 billion – our direct contribution to which is estimated to be worth more than double our target return on investment.

Teams from multiple government departments based in the UK, China and the USA have come together and worked to a single strategic programme, delivering over 20 major campaign activations to date.

The campaign team has built relationships and engaged with strategic partners around the world. From the likes of Anuga (the world’s largest food and drink trade fair) in Cologne and the Best of British Exhibition in Shanghai, to the Royal Highland Show in Scotland and a Meet-The-Buyer event in Bristol, the campaign has secured a domestic and international stronghold, ensuring a strong UK brand presence at crucial trade moments.

The team

  • Lara Hallett – Head of Communications Strategy and Campaign Delivery
  • Katie Slater – Head of Food is GREAT
  • Mon Sanroma – Domestic Campaigns Manager
  • Katherine Mountain – International Campaigns Manager
  • Mohammad Vorajee – Brand and Digital
  • Emilie Sims – Campaign Coordinator
  • Rachel Ford – Chief Press Officer
  • Sally Henfield – Senior Press Officer
  • Lauren Adams – Press Officer
  • Sophie Court – Press Officer
  • Emma Tilley – Senior Press Officer


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