Food and Drink update: UK drinks exports jump 19% to £7.6 billion

  • Whisky is playing a key role in this increase
  • ‘Made in Scotland, England or Wales’ seen as synonymous with luxury
  • UK has also become a growing exporter of craft beer

UK drink exports grew 19% last year* from £6.4 billion to £7.6 billion.

Whisky is playing a key role in rising drinks exports. China and Taiwan have both increased their Scotch whisky imports sharply in the past year as younger, wealthier consumers are attracted by its premium, heritage image.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, global exports of Scotch whisky grew to £4.51 billion during 2021, up 19% on 2020.

Exports of whisky to the US also rose last year thanks to the scrapping of tariffs which were imposed as part of a US-European trade dispute. These tariffs were in place for a year until June 2021, with exports recovering sharply in the second half of 2021.

Additionally, the UK has become a growing exporter of craft beer. Demand is increasing overseas, particularly from the US and the Republic of Ireland, for British artisan beers. 10% of the total volume of beer exported from the UK is now produced by independent brewers, according to HMRC data.

Major independent UK brewer BrewDog saw revenue growth of 21% in 2021, with a continued rise in exports playing a significant role.

A growth premium non-alcoholic soft drinks and mixers have also helped UK drinks export figures. Fever-Tree, the maker of premium mixers, saw its US sales increase by 50% in 2021 compared to its pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

Rebecca Copping, Associate Partner, says: “The UK food and drink products punch way above their weight. ‘Made in Scotland, England or Wales’ is now seen as synonymous with luxury. It is great to see drinks exports bouncing back from the disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic.”

“Many British drinks brands have successfully drawn on their heritage image to establish themselves as premium purchases overseas. Whisky distillers have been particularly successful in doing this but brands in other categories of drinks have also followed suit.”

“It isn’t just whisky that is the UK drinks industry’s success story. The premium quality of UK craft beers and soft drinks are also becoming valued around the world.”

*Year end April 30 2022. Source: ONS

Our People

Find the Hazlewoods person you need – and get to know our team.

Got a Question?

Find out more about us, and we can find out more about you.