Paterson made the quip at last night’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) president’s reception.
Urging industry to fly the flag for British goods, he said it was disappointing that the UK imported 150,000t of ice cream a year – triple the amount it exports.
“We need to persuade people to buy British products,” he said. “Not only is it the best in the world, but it is good for Britain and good for the economy.
“At the minute we are facing a dessert deficit.”
Speaking at the event – held at the London Marriott Hotel County Hall – Paterson said the government was committed to driving up food exports.
He said he was delighted to discover on a recent trade trip that UK firms were exporting “tea to China”.
“We are committed to helping grow the industry and grow exports in an environmentally sustainable fashion,” he told guests. “The two are not mutually exclusive.”
Meanwhile, the FDF revealed that good and drink manufacturers have smashed their target for the number of apprenticeships across the industry.
The FDF’s apprenticeship pledge sought to double the number of apprentices by the end of 2012. But numbers had trebled.