UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports rose to over £12 billion (£12,152.4m) in 2011, exceeding expectations and confirming significant potential for overseas growth over the next decade. The previous year’s results (2010) proved a landmark for the industry when figures broke through the £10 billion barrier, but the 2011 results show performance is up by 11.4% on 2010. The £12 billion figure is good news for the food and drink manufacturing industry which has set itself the ambition to grow 20% by 2020.
Export growth has been fuelled by strong performance in new and emerging markets including Eastern Europe and the Far East. China entered the top 20 export destinations for the first time with a 55% increase on 2010, partly due to changing tastes and an increasingly westernised diet. South Korea increased by 37% and Hong Kong by 41%. Established non EU markets also performed well with exports to the US rising by 25% between 2010-2011. The non EU share of the £12 billion total was 23% compared to 77% for the EU.
The UK’s traditional EU customers also remained loyal, with Ireland remaining the top export destination closely followed by France and the Netherlands. Dutch interest in UK products increased with a 30% increase echoed by Belgium (29.9%) and Germany (15%).
Interesting percentage rises were recorded in many key product sectors. The highest percentage rises in food were seen in fish fillets (32%); beef (32%); milk and cream (20%); lamb (20%) and cheese (18%). Prepared foods (including prepared meat; sweet biscuits and soft drinks) all exhibited double digit growth and the export of chocolate, the UK’s biggest value added product, grew by 16%. Some sectors have reversed previous declines, including breakfast cereals as companies have broadened their export activity to non EU customers.
Exports are of key importance in the food and drink manufacturing industry’s drive for growth. The sector has proved resilient during the recession, bucking the general downward trend in manufacturing industries. An exports action plan was recently launched, a joint initiative between industry and Government to work together to increase export potential and remove barriers.
FDF director general Melanie Leech comments: “Whilst the domestic market is growing at a steady rate we are seeing very strong performance from food and drink exports. There remains considerable interest in British heritage brands and around our health and wellbeing innovation. Companies understand the importance of developing new markets, competing successfully in many cases against other experienced exporters in France, Germany and Spain.”