Latest figures show that the UK food and drink export industry is now worth a staggering £19billion a year, with a record 2,500 companies selling their produce to 150 countries worldwide.
One of the biggest headliners is the British cheese sector, which is savouring unprecedented levels of export success. UK firms exported cheese to 86 different countries last year, including 22,000 tonnes to France – which historically boasts a strong domestic fromage industry. Such is the popularity of our cheese amongst the French that sales rose by more than a quarter during the last four years to hit £70million in 2013.
It would also seem that the French are partial to a glass of English wine to accompany their imported cheese, with wine exports to France accounting for £48million in sales.
English wine has continued to enjoy increasing recognition abroad, with expected export sales of more than £100million worldwide in 2015.
Indeed, the beverage market as a whole is very lucrative from an export perspective, with tea, beer and juices also proving popular overseas.
Tea has long been established as the British drink of choice, with imports from China dating back to the 17th century, but times are changing and last year saw a 30 per cent increase in the volume of tea exported to China from the UK.
Beer sales have also gone down a treat, with £251million generated from the US, Belgium and Australia alone. Exports to Belgium increased by a staggering 3000% from £3million in 2010 to £93million last year, whilst trade to the USA increased by a third to £147million and doubled to £11million for Australia.
Our fruit and vegetable juices are also making an impact, having been shipped to 96 countries last year, generating overseas sales of £65million. The UK is now the fourth largest exporter of juice drinks in the EU – a rise in demand of almost 40 per cent since 2010.
Our chocolate and biscuit products are also proving irresistible, even to those countries famed for their own confectionary treats.
Annual chocolate sales to Switzerland are almost £10million – a major increase of 160 per cent since 2010, whilst exports to Belgium and Germany were £17million and £35million respectively last year.
Long enjoyed by many with a cup of tea, the humble biscuit has firmly positioned itself as a favourite abroad, with a whopping 7.5 million exported to 143 countries last year, generating sales of £1.1billion.
Americans are the biggest fans, purchasing almost £21million of biscuits, followed by the Germans with £15million and the UAE and Nigeria, who imported £9.5million worth.
The reputation that the British food and drink industry has established abroad is well deserved. These are quality products which are worthy of the popularity they have gained.
Long may the export appetite for our food and drink sector continue!