Whisky and beer lead UK food & beverage exports

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Whisky, beer, wine and gin are in the UK's top 10 exports. Pic: iStock/xfotostudio
Whisky, beer, wine and gin are in the UK's top 10 exports. Pic: iStock/xfotostudio

Related tags International trade

Exports of beer have overtaken chocolate to become the UK’s third largest food and beverage export product by value; joining whisky which retains the top spot in F&B exports. 

Of particular note is the rapid growth of beer exports to South Korea, which are credited with driving a 77% increase in overall F&B exports to the country.

The Food and Drink Federation’s H1 2017 export report shows record growth in overall F&B exports in H1 2017, up 8.5% on H1 2016 to £10.2bn ($13bn), representing the largest H1 exports value on record. The top three export goods for the UK are whisky, salmon and beer.  

In the top 10 exports: whisky, beer, wine, gin, soft drinks

uk exports h1 2017 pic
Source: Food and Drink Federation / Her Majesty's Customs & Excise

Whisky is the UK’s top export product by value, growing 3.7% in H1. This is followed by salmon and beer, with the latter growing 18.4% in value.

Also in the top 10 exports are wine (which grew 21% in value, putting it in sixth place) and gin (up 4%, putting it in seventh place).

In volume terms, however, whisky and beer have dropped slightly; while volumes of gin rose by 1.9% and wine was up by 15.4%.

Beer: South Korea

Imported premium lager saw a total volume increase of 21% in 2016, to reach 124m litres, and off-trade volume sales experienced a rise of 29%, driven by frequent promotional activities via hypermarkets & convenience stores.

Beer is expected to see increasingly intense competition between domestic & imported brands. In particular, millennials are getting used to the high standards in terms of taste & quality in beers from overseas.

Source: Euromonitor, Beer in South Korea, June 2017

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) says the value and volume increases in wine exports show the importance of the industry in the UK.  

“Alongside the UK’s well known and leading global spirits position, the UK is also the hub of the global wine industry,” ​it said, responding to the H1 2017 figures. 

“Much of the wine that is originally imported here is then reshipped to the EU, as well as markets further afield, particularly to the Far East and countries like China, Singapore and Hong Kong.”

More wine is exported than beer or pork; and the WSTA predicts that - at current trends - wine can overtake chocolate exports.

The WSTA is calling on the UK to get the ‘right deal’ as it leaves the EU, one in which trade can continue uninterrupted and wine trade agreements are preserved.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: “Our industry also needs urgent clarity over the UK’s continued access to terms agreed under existing EU trade deals and wine agreements with third countries after March 2019 – particularly wine agreements with Australia and the USA, two key wine markets for the UK, as well as continuing to pursue a fast and comprehensive trade deal with the EU.

“The sooner businesses have this sort of clarity the easier a transition to a post-EU trading environment will be – when there also needs to be new bilateral trade deals of which British drinks can take advantage."

In soft drinks, which take the 10th​ place on the export table, value rose by 2.5% in H1 2017 while volume fell by 8.9%.

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