Total exports to EU markets (+8.2%) grew faster than those to non-EU markets (+1.2%), with Ireland remaining the UK’s biggest export market – worth £981m, up 13.6%. Exports to France, the second-largest market, fell 0.4% to £518.8m.
Of the top ten product categories, eight saw growth, while salmon and beer saw a decline in sales, down £40.7m and £16.1m respectively.
Breakfast cereals saw the fastest growth, up 30.2% to £111.2m, while whisky remained the UK’s top export, with sales up 6.5% to £955m. A full list can be found in the infographic below.
FDF chief executive Ian Wright said that while export growth to Europe continued to be strong, there were also significant opportunities further afield.
‘Demand for quality UK products’
“However, these require more specialist in-market support,” he added. “For example, a recent trip to Japan highlighted the strength of demand that exists for quality UK products and the desire to build trading relationships.”
UK exports of food and drink to Japan have grown over the past ten years – up 5% to £56.7m compared with the previous year – but at a rate slower than the average growth rate of exports from other nations in the EU.
The FDF hoped the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the 2020 Olympics in Japan would present further opportunities to build on this growth and strengthen trading ties between the UK and Japan.
Commenting on the report, Food & Drink Exports Association director Elsa Fairbanks said: “We are greatly encouraged that 2018 has got off to such a strong start across a wide range of countries – both established markets within the EU and emerging markets in Asia.
“It is a testament to the investment and effort that UK food and drink exporting companies are putting into international sales. Hopefully this will encourage more businesses to research new opportunities outside the UK.”
Trade mission to Singapore
The FDF’s report on UK food and drink exports follows a trade mission to Singapore last month by ten food and drink firms, in a bid to access a market worth $6.2bn (£4.6bn).
Organised by Santander Corporate & Commercial, the week-long mission sought to build relationships and create opportunities in a lucrative export market.
The companies that attended the trip were Burt’s Snacks, Crème d’Or, Eat Natural, Franklin and Sons, Millennium Group, Paramount, Rakusen’s, Somerdale, Taylors of Harrogate and Tiptree.
Richard Cuda, head of strategic alliances at Santander Corporate & Commercial, said: “Singapore and the wider south-east Asia market represents an excellent opportunity for dynamic UK firms to meet the high demand for quality food and drink produce.
“The trade mission has also provided us with an excellent opportunity to showcase our Singaporean trade activity and demonstrate our in-country capabilities.”