FoodDrinkEurope press release- The numbers behind food and drink


Food and drink is Europe’s largest manufacturing industry, employing more than 4.8 million people and generating an annual turnover of €1.2 trillion.

Data & Trends 2020 shows that the EU food and drink industry employs 4.82 million people, generates a turnover of €1.2 trillion and €266 billion in value added, making it the largest manufacturing industry in the EU. In half of the EU’s 27 Member States, the food and drink industry is the biggest manufacturing employer. This year’s edition includes the latest data the EU-UK food and drink trade, digitalisation in the industry, automation, the bioeconomy, and an overview of the industry's contribution to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Data & Trends 2020 also provides an outlook on markets. About two-thirds of EU food and drink exports are destined for the Single Market. At the same time, the EU is the largest exporter of food and drink products in the world with extra-EU exports reaching €120 billion and a trade surplus of €44 billion. The report also includes a ranking of the top 50 food and drink companies in the world.

The figures are published today in FoodDrinkEurope’s latest Data & Trends report, available for download here, which provides comprehensive statistics and insights into the EU food and drink industry.

Here’s a summary of some of the most eye-catching numbers in the report:

-        Jobs: The EU food and drink manufacturing industry employs 4.82 million people, making it a leading employer in the EU. The industry pays its employees a combined annual salary of €113 billion.
-        Turnover: The industry boosts the EU economy with a turnover of €1.2 trillion, making it the largest manufacturing industry in the EU.
-        SMEs: 99.2% of the industry is made up of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These 291,000 businesses generate more than 40% of the industry turnover and provide more than half the jobs in the sector.
-        Digital: 27% of businesses have appointed a Chief Digital Officer, and there are now 30,000 robots used along the food supply chain to improve precision and efficiency.
-        Consumers: EU consumers spend 20.7% of their budget on food and drinks, either in shops or out-of-home (restaurants and cafes). Out-of-home consumption represents one-third of consumer spend on food and drink products.
-        Sustainability: An estimated 42% of plastic packaging waste from the food and drink industry was recycled in 2017, 18% higher than in 2005.
-        Trade: The EU is the world’s number one exporter and number two importer of food and drinks. Almost one third of Members States’ food and drink exports are to non-EU markets, generating a positive trade balance of €44 billion.  
-        R&D: EU companies invested €2.9 billion in research and development in 2018/19 to improve products and packaging.

FoodDrinkEurope Director General Mella Frewen said the report was a pertinent reminder as to why the food and drink industry should have a central role in the Green Deal and farm to fork policy discussions.

“Our sector is at the heart of the food value chain - we buy 70% of all EU farm produce and help provide 1.5 billion meals to consumers every day. It is the EU’s largest manufacturing employer, and adds more to the economy than any other manufacturing sector.

“The EU food and drink industry employs 4.8 million dedicated workers that not only deliver high quality food and drink products but have also worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic under very difficult circumstances to ensure shelves, fridges and cupboards have remained stocked.

“As our Data & Trends report demonstrates, we are a significant industry with much to offer the EU in its transition towards more sustainable food systems.”

This year’s report includes new data on digitalisation in the industry, automation, the bioeconomy, Geographical Indications, EU-UK trade and sustainability.

Note that the report gathers data available in October 2020, mainly until 2017 for structural statistics, and to 2019 for trade. Hence the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the EU food and drink industry does not feature.

Download the press release ( pdf - 176KB )