Food and Drink update: UK drinks exports jump 13% to £9.4 billion in past year

  • Whisky buyers in India and Singapore play a key role rising exports
  • Even Brexit related problems can’t halt overall growth of key sector

UK drinks exports grew 13% last year, from £8.3 billion in 2021/22 to £9.4 billion in 2022/23*.

Our research has found that spirits are playing a key role in rising drinks exports. This is a success for UK heritage brands in whisky and gin, as international consumers drive the trend for choosing higher quality products.

There is continued demand for scotch from traditional markets in EU countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Poland, which are among the top 10 export markets by volume. Despite Brexit, exports to the EU reached close to £1.6 billion in the last year, making it the second largest regional market for Scotch whisky. However, sales of more perishable, lower margin drinks to the EU, such as beer have suffered due to Brexit related red-tape.

Drinks exports to countries outside the EU also continue to boom. The US remains the biggest export market of Scotch whisky by value, as exports in 2022 reached just over £1 billion.

Additionally, exports to nations like India and Singapore have increased sharply in the last year. In 2022, India became the Scotch Whisky industry’s largest global market by volume, which comes as wealthier Indian consumers are attracted to Scotch Whisky’s premium image.

Whisky is the UK’s single biggest food and drink export by value. The industry is aiming to add another £1 billion of exports over the next five years**, which will depend heavily on a UK-India free trade agreement that addresses key impediment like the 150% tariff on imports of Scotch Whisky into India, making it markedly more expensive than Indian whiskies.

Despite consumers drinking fewer overall units of alcohol, the premiumisation of the drinks industry, with an emphasis on gin and whisky, had added important jobs and investment for the UK economy.

Rebecca Copping, Partner says: “British heritage brands have successfully placed themselves as a luxury in the international drinks market. A large chunk of this success is due to young, wealthy consumers purchasing quality drinks brands that signify status and success.”

“Despite volatility in the economy and high interest rates around much of the globe, consumer spend on luxury goods has held up well, although sales growth of luxury goods is slowing. This post-COVID boom in luxury goods sales certainly had a hand in increasing UK drinks exports.”

“Now the industry is focused on long term growth, reaching bigger, untapped markets. The UK Government can support that by delivering trade agreements that lower barriers to expansion.”

“While whisky is playing a huge role in the export increase, this is also a success story for UK drinks brands that focus on gin and other spirits. It’s the heritage image and luxury branding that draws in a lot of consumers, especially those in growing markets like India and Singapore.”

*Year end: July 31 2023

**Source: Scottish Whisky Association

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