Guest blog – Tom Cooke, Essentia Proteins, West Midlands Food and Drink Forum

Guest blog – Tom Cooke, Essentia Proteins, West Midlands Food and Drink Forum

17 Oct 2021

In recent months the food and drink manufacturing sector has experienced a series of challenges throughout the supply chain. This has led to shortages of some products in shops and restaurants, as manufacturers and processors struggle to access the right products at the right time in a usually highly efficient supply chain.

The supply chain challenges have in part been due to the ‘great unlocking’ as economies reopen after Covid-19 lockdowns, not just in the UK but internationally. The sudden surge in demand for certain food and drink products, packaging and transportation has meant that supply chains have not always been able to keep up with demand.

This has been compounded by structural labour shortages in the sector, the loss of migrant workers who have left the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic and policy changes as a result of EU-exit.

Shortages of lorry driver and food processing workers in particular have disrupted the industry, as businesses have found that they cannot recruit enough staff to fulfill demand, or are finding it difficult to transport their goods throughout the supply chain.

Earlier this month businesses also reported issues due to a shortage of C02 often used in food preservation and the slaughter of animals, adding greater uncertainty into the supply chain. Businesses across our region are experiencing many of these challenges.

A member of GBSLEP’s West Midlands Food and Drink Forum shares his thoughts in the short blog below.

Tom is Sales Director at Essentia Protein Solutions. Located in the Black Country, Essentia manufactures a wide range of meat proteins that can be used to enhance meat, savoury and nutritional products. Its mission is to provide sustainable protein solutions to build a better business for our customers. This is delivered through driving innovation, expertise and technical know-how.

Tom commented:

“Essentia employs 45 people at a site in Tipton, in the heart of the Black Country. Our animal protein solutions are used in a wide range of finished products from burgers and sausages through to soups, sauces and nutrition supplements. 
The ongoing shortage of workers in the abattoirs is having a knock-on-effect onto the wider supply chain that uses animal products such as Essentia. This means that businesses who like ours rely on animal products are just has affected as the processers who prepare meat for our supermarket shelves. All our Essentia ingredients are derived from natural raw materials originating from beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and fish.
Over the last month, farmers and many representative groups have highlighted the challenges that our industry faces. Combined with rising energy costs – our electricity and gas costs have increased 50% - it’s an unprecedented situation that requires collaboration between national government, industry bodies and businesses like ours.
Underlying all this, is the new trading arrangements post-Brexit. Essentia is proud to export around the world. With all the current issues, we’ve found the lack of hauliers plus the greater amounts of paperwork needed when exporting products of animal origin is having an impact on how quickly our customers receive our products.
Like many businesses, we felt that last year was like no other year, however the resilience we built is still there as we navigate the chopping waters in 2021.”

As the regional lead for food and drink manufacturing for the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, the GBSLEP is working with businesses and other stakeholders to understand these challenges locally and seek to overcome them.

If you are interested in finding out about the range of free support on offer to you, please get in touch with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Growth Hub who would be happy to assist with your query. Please email

If you're interested in learning more about the West Midlands Food and Drink Forum visit the group's page -

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