Key markets & categories for food & drink export growth

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) today reported that in the first half of 2013, total UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports grew by 2.5% to £6.1billion.

Although 2013 began slowly with food and non-alcoholic drinks exports down by 3.4% in Q1, this was offset by strong Q2 growth (+9%) – exports in June alone were up over 13%. Exports to the EU27 showed positive signs (+1%) though this was eclipsed by continued high growth to non-EU markets, up 7.5%. China leapt up ten places to enter the top 10 markets for food and drink companies, a climb largely accounted for by a boom in British pork exports (+591%).

Value added foods were up in both EU (+4.9%) and non-EU markets (+8.2%), and sweet biscuits performed particularly strongly (+14.2%). Against a difficult backdrop with cumulative UK exports down by 3.3%, food and non-alcoholic drink exports have performed solidly, showing a 2.5% increase compared to the same period last year.


  • Chocolate: +5.4% to £249m
  • Cheese: +3.8% to £210m
  • Soft drinks: +5.5% to £187m
  • Sweet Biscuits: +14.2% to £136m
  • Sugar confectionery: +6.8% to £86m

Selected markets:

  • China: +126% to £102m
  • Australia: +25.9% to £55m
  • South Africa: +25.4% to £50m
  • Hong Kong: +24.9% to £73m
  • Denmark: +10.8% to £108m

FDF’s Economic and Commercial Services Director, Steve Barnes, said:
“Q1 started slowly with the Eurozone gripped by recession and extreme weather, and the UK still feeling the effects of a disappointing 2012 harvest. However, Q2 was much better as the EU pulled out of recession and consumer confidence grew. The performance to non-EU markets was hugely encouraging in particular and a credit to companies investing to grow internationally.”

Executive summary

  • Exports grew by 5% to £12.8bn.
  • Exports to non-EU markets (+11.5%) outperformed the EU (+3%) pushing the non-EU share up by 1.3%.
  • Including alcoholic drinks, total food and drink exports were £19.4bn, up 3.7% on 2012.
  • Exports of whisky (the UK’s largest food and drink export) were the same as 2012 at £4.4bn.
  • The food and non-alcoholic drink trade balance increased by 9% to a deficit of £25bn as imports grew by 8%.

What happened throughout 2013?

  • The EU pulled out of recession in Q2 with +0.4% GDP growth. After a shaky Q3 (+0.1%), economic growth strengthened again in Q4 (+0.4%).
  • Food and drink exports to the EU were closely correlated to its economic performance growing strongly in Q2 (+9%) and Q4 (+7%).
  • Food and drink exports to non-EU markets grew by only 1% in Q1 but then experienced double digit growth throughout the rest of the year.

Key Indicators 2013

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Value added up globally / commodities up in non-EU

  • Value added products performed well in both the EU (+5%) and non-EU (+6%).
  • The top 5 best performing value added products generated gains of over £280m compared to falls of just under £60m from the worst performers.
  • Key food commodities including fish, dairy, meat, cereals, sugar and vegetables contributed a £120m increase in exports to non-EU markets. Commodity exports to the EU remained flat in 2013 versus 2012.

2013 Exports Going Up - Going Down

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Export value gains 2013

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Exports by Sector

Exports by sector 2013

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Exports by Product

Top Product Categories 2013

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The highest growth markets in the top 20 included:

  • China +82% to £201m – Moving up to be the 11th largest market and second largest non-EU market. Pork, animal fat and salmon exports collectively added £70m in 2013. British Pork (+92%) and Scottish Salmon (+90%) alone contributed £33m
  • Australia +18% to £134m – Due to increases in chocolate (+49%), sweet biscuits (+11%), sugar confectionery (+43%) and coffee (+269%) adding £14m
  • Hong Kong +16% to £156m – Demand for UK meat and seafood remains strong, with lamb (+106%), crustaceans (+184%) and salmon (+162%) adding £16m
  • South Africa +13% to £103m – Saw a 100% increase in salmon, a 145% increase in ice cream and a 62% increase in prepared meat
  • Saudi Arabia + 12% to £132m – The largest value gains came from the export of eggs (+£6m), sweet biscuits (+£3m), breakfast cereals (+£1.4m) and sauces (+£1m)
  • Poland +11% to £203m – Coffee (+500%), spreads (+54%) and chocolate (+55%) all grew strongly adding over £25m on 2012
  • France +10% to £1,470m – Fresh salmon (+23%) and soft drinks exports doubled to £33m. Tea (+50%), sauces (+32%) and ice cream (+28%) also saw double digit gains
  • Ireland +7% to £3,206m – Over £35m of value gains to the UK’s largest export market were driven by increases in milk and processed milk products. Chocolate, sauces, ice cream and cheese collectively contributed a further £55m
  • United States +7% to £525m – Largely driven by the appetite for Scottish Salmon exports which grew in value by £43m
  • Denmark +6% to £218m – The three products that grew the most by value were pork (+£5m), cheese (+£1.6m) and sweet biscuits (+£1.2m)

Top 20 Markets

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Top 10 Markets - overall value gained

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Click to view full report on the Food and Drink Federation website

Sectors: Food & Drink
Export Action Plan