Brexit an 'opportunity' for agri-food, says Waitrose managing director
Brexit is an "opportunity to show the whole world that Britain's farming and food standards are second to none", according to the managing director of Waitrose.
Rob Collins made the comment during a keynote speech at the Institute for Global Food Security's annual lecture on Wednesday night.
The event at Riddel Hall in Belfast was attended by an audience of Northern Ireland's agri-food industry representatives, scientists and academics.
Many Northern Ireland food companies were there, including Dunbia and Dale Farm, alongside public sector bodies such as the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
Mr Collins said that Brexit, while leading to uncertainty about the future landscape of retail, nevertheless presented an opportunity to showcase the "best of British".
"We will not be in a race to the bottom. Post-Brexit, we need to maintain our leadership in food and farming," he added.
Mr Collins was "optimistic" about the food retail sector, despite the "ferocious" competition between retailers.
"The competitive landscape has become so difficult. Waitrose operational profits are down and we have been determined not to pass on price increases to our customers - that has all put a severe squeeze on our margins.
"But I'm very optimistic. Innovation inspires. People want a deeper experience - Britain has a shared love of great food."
He added: "In 2017 we launched 2,500 new lines and we are building a Waitrose innovation centre. Every time we innovate, it translates into increased demand and spending."