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How R&D tax credits and industry specific expertise can drive innovation in the food and drink industry 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the food and drink sector, not only from a hospitality point of view but also from a consumer behaviour aspect.

It has accelerated a change in our relationship with food and drink; the way we purchase it, how we consume it and also our attitude towards it.

The rise in online shopping, the increased focus of cooking at home and the awareness of sustainability and healthy eating are noticeable trends, all of which produce an opportunity for innovation and development.

The scope of food and drink innovation

The scope of innovation in the food and drink sector is vast. 

AberInnovation (Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus) specialise in assisting innovative companies in the food and drink sector with their research and development activities. Their newly-built innovation campus in Aberystwyth houses a state-of-the-art Future Food Centre, providing an ideal environment for academic and industrial collaboration. Their Future Food Centre contains a demonstration kitchen, meat and liquid processing spaces, and a sensory analysis suite.

Ben Jones, Marketing and Partnershp Manager at AberInnovation commented:

We are extremely passionate about F+D innovation at AberInnovation. We support innovation through our pilot-scale biorefinery and extensive advanced analysis capabilities both of which are in a food-grade environment. Such a constellation of facilities and expertise allows for truly multidisciplinary research and development from farm to fork and for innovative companies to be able to greatly accelerate their routes to market and bolster their competitive advantage.

Examples of R&D work include a wide range of meat-processing facilities such as butchery of whole carcasses, meat tenderisation, vacuum tumbling, and retail display facilities to run shelf trials and analyses. Continuing on the consumer-facing theme, AberInnovation also houses an array of sensory testing suites for organoleptic analysis of product by taste panels, allowing companies to refine and continually improve their products.

Ben Jones

Marketing and Partnership Manager, AberInnovation

The role of R&D tax credits

R&D tax credits is a valuable tax relief available to limited companies. It can provide companies with a cash injection of up to 33p for every £1 spent on qualifying R&D activity; funds that can be used for any purpose.

When you think about the term innovation, the sectors that usually spring to mind are manufacturing, software development, engineering and ICT. And you would be forgiven for thinking this; these are the sectors with the highest concentration of R&D tax credit claims.

However, the R&D activity that takes place within the food and drink industry is remarkable, continually developing new products and production processes, and improving existing ones. Examples of such development can include:

  • Improving a product’s shelf life
  • Reducing a product’s sugar or fat content
  • Improving efficiency of a food manufacturing process
  • Incorporation and development of recyclable packaging
  • Production scale up

I would always encourage any company who may think that they are involved in R&D activity to speak to a professional to ascertain if they qualify for the relief.

AberInnovation provides vital support to companies in the food and drink sector, drawing on their industry specific knowledge and experience. This, coupled with the cash generated from R&D tax credits, can help companies achieve their objectives, whether that be expansion, growth or gaining access to a new market.

Matthew Jones

Managing Director, LimestoneGrey

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