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Alcohol boosts British food and drink exports

Published:  29 March, 2018

British drink and food exports are growing with alcohol, especially whisky, driving the market, research by GS1 UK has revealed.

A survey of the supply chain organisation’s 34,000 members published in its report Brits Abroad: UK Food & Drink Exports in 2018 found that the export of goods had risen by 12% in the year to November 2017, with alcoholic drinks outstripping this with a 16% increase. 

With estimates placing total UK food and drink exports at around £22 billion in 2017, the 12% increase represented approximately £2.6 billion of additional transactions, it said. 

UK whisky exports were worth £4.5 billion with beer at £603 million, according to GS1.

Exports are now a larger proportion of each business overall than five years ago, accounting for 15% of revenue, up from 11% in 2013, it said.

Non-alcoholic drinks and beverages faired well with exports at 22%.

It said this growth, was in part, driven by the increasing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses producing high-quality products.

The on-going Brexit negotiations and the uncertainty surrounding the issue had very little impact on the confidence in exports of these businesses, it claimed.

“With official Government figures showing that £22 billion of it was sent overseas in 2017, there is clearly a lasting taste for British products and our members have optimistic expectations for the coming years,” said Gary Lynch, CEO, GS1 UK.

Whisky and salmon were very much “our export staples”, but the thirst for our beer and gin also continued to intensify, he added.

Direct sales, including online transactions accounted for two-fifths of sales for its members, but a further 39% was from working with in-county agents of distributors. 

Almost three-fifths of those surveyed (56%) said they expected direct sales to account for an even larger percentage of overall export sales in the next five years.

GS1 UK said it had seen a 73% growth in members in the drinks and beverages sector in the last year; whilst the GS1 UK membership growth in the broader food & grocery sector increased by 34%.