Insurance · 12 February 2018

Record whisky exports lead overseas taste for British food and drink

An equivalent of over 1.2bn bottles of whisky were sold abroad in 2017

UK export sales reached over £22bn in 2017, government figures have revealed, with record whisky exports leading global demand for British food and drink produce.

According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK food and drink businesses have seen overseas demand rise steadily in recent years and now export to 217 markets.

At £4.5bn – and an equivalent of over 1.2bn bottles – whisky exports continued to be the country’s most lucrative. Scotch whisky now accounts for over a fifth of all UK food and drink exports, with sales rising 1.6 per cent in volume and 8.9 per cent in value.

Highest whisky sales in 2017

  1. USA (£922m)
  2. France (£433m)
  3. Singapore (£291m)
  4. Germany (£184m)
  5. Spain (£175m)

Commenting on record single malt sales, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Karen Betts, said: “Scotch whisky is not just a core part of Scotland’s national identity and heritage, it is also a fundamental part of our export economy.

“It’s very important to the industry that our global markets remain robust and resilient as the UK navigates Brexit and establishes new trading relationships around the world.”

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Elsewhere in Britain’s spirits revival, international gin sales reached over £500m last year, and UK breweries enjoyed higher beer sales in Japan and New Zealand.

Other key areas of produce also saw demand increase overseas, with sales of milk and cream rising 61 per cent, salmon by 23 per cent and pork by 14 per cent.

Adding to Britain’s exports tally in 2017 were £85m worth of cheese sold to France, £21m of chocolate to Belgium and even £2m of tea to China.

Six of Britain’s biggest exports

  1. Whisky (£4.5bn)
  2. Salmon (£720m)
  3. Chocolate (£680m)
  4. Cheese (£623m)
  5. Beer (£603m)
  6. Shellfish (£600m)

Welcoming the exports milestone, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Ian Wright, said growing demand for UK food and drink represented a vital economic boost.

“UK food and drink is known across the globe for its provenance and quality. We are a proud home to many of the world’s most beloved brands,” Wright say.

“We must now build upon this platform in order to take advantage of new opportunities and the growing global appetite for great British and Northern Irish manufacturing as we leave the EU.”

Britain’s top five export markets

  1. Irish Republic (£3.7bn)
  2. France (£2.3bn)
  3. USA (£2.3bn)
  4. Netherlands (£1.5bn)
  5. Germany (£1.4bn)

The head of the Confederation of British Industry has demanded a customs union Brexit deal that supports exporters

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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