Law firm Shakespeare Martineau has launched a new food and drink sector group to provide a full-service legal offering to support the industry, which is valued at more than £100 billion.

Offering tailored advice and a one-stop-shop to the food and drink market, the group covers commercial, employment, corporate and real estate law, alongside intellectual property, business immigration, landlord and tenant disputes, commercial disputes, food regulatory and uninsured loss recovery advice.

The firm – which already works with major retailers and multiple supermarkets including Iceland and Farmfoods – has launched the group to support the food and drink industry at a time when it is facing multiple challenges following Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt McDonald, partner and food and drink sector lead at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “The food and drink industry has been particularly impacted by political events such as the cost of living crisis and Brexit, as well as staff shortages, material price increases and Covid-19.

Working in food and drink is different from many other commercial enterprises – it is highly competitive and brings with it a plethora of ever-evolving industry-specific regulatory regimes, taxation considerations, and technological and logistical challenges.

Our legal teams already represent many major retailers and supermarkets, and we are delighted to be bringing that expertise together to create a food and drink-specific group, which will focus on providing a full and bespoke service to one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the UK economy.

Experts working within Shakespeare Martineau’s food and drink sector group include partner and head of commercial, IP and employment Phil Pepper; uninsured loss recovery partner Ian Evans; litigation partners James Fownes and Ben Humphreys; commercial partner Carys Thompson; corporate partner Jody Webb; legal director and immigration specialist Tijen Ahmet; real estate associate Samantha Vaughan; and food safety and regulatory lead Melissa Toney.

Recent analysis by Shakespeare Martineau found that the food and drink industry accounted for 6% of administrations in the first six months of 2022 – the sixth highest sector in the UK. More than 620 businesses – 39 of which came from the food and drink industry, which included several breweries and restaurant chains – filed for administration between 1 January and 30 June 2022, marking a 60% increase compared to 2021.

Matt added: “Most businesses have suffered to some extent over the past two years, but some businesses within the food and drink sector have been particularly hard-hit – not least those in the hospitality sector like restaurants and pubs.

Lockdown and the associated drop in footfall in towns and cities during the pandemic has been devastating and clearly for some companies this has, very unfortunately, been fatal to their business.

Looking ahead, there is cause for cautious optimism as we return back to something approaching ‘normality’, but there are still huge challenges facing the sector including the continued reduced footfall, during weekdays in particular, increased food prices due to the war in Ukraine and the ongoing cost of living crisis forcing consumers to tighten their belts.

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Matt’s expertise cover all areas of Employment law. He has considerable experience of advising clients on complex employment litigation, senior hires and exits, large-scale redundancy exercises and complicated TUPE issues.

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Published: 1st September 2022
Area: Firm News

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