UK food and drink makers can still target growth in export markets despite the imminent end of promotional body Food From Britain, government and industry officials said today (16 March).

Food From Britain officially closes its doors on 1 April after losing UK government funding although it insists its network of international offices will continue to support the UK's up-and-coming food and drink firms.

A new body, the Food & Drink Exporters Association, has been set up and will work alongside a government body, UK Trade & Investment, and the FFB's international offices to help UK food and drink suppliers overseas.

UK food and drink exports remain buoyant, with sales overseas up 16% during the first nine months of 2008, according to government figures.

John Whitehead, director of the Food & Drink Exporters Association, said the organisation would look to be an "umbrella" body for the UK's slew of regional food and drink associations, which aim to promote suppliers overseas.

"Suppliers should join up and keep this strong voice for the industry in government," Whitehead told just-drinks sister site, just-food.

Mark Robson, international trade director for UK Trade & Investment, said a key task for the government body would be to help orchestrate the work of the country's regional food associations.

"There is a lot going on and we want to try to make that better co-ordinated," Robson said.

Robson shied away from a national UK marketing campaign for food and drink exporters, citing the importance of "local identity" but he said there was a need for the different bodies to work together.

Robson acknowledged the importance of food and drink exports to the UK economy amid the current downturn. "The figures show that food and drink is bucking the trend," he said.