News article

24 May 2018

First quarter food and drink exports grow by 5.5% to £5.2 billion

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The first quarter (Q1) of 2018 saw exports of food and drink rise by 5.5% (year-on-year) from £5.0bn in Q1 2017 to £5.2bn.

  • Q1 2018 food and drink export growth to EU markets (+8.2%) rose quicker than to non-EU markets (+1.2%).
  • Positive growth was recorded amongst all of the top ten products (including whisky, chocolate, cheese, wine and beef), apart from salmon and beer.

The latest export statistics from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reveal that Q1 2018 exports of food and drink have grown by 5.5% to £5.2bn, from £5.0bn in Q1 2017. Total exports to EU markets (+8.2%) grew faster than those to non-EU markets (+1.2%).

Each of the top ten product categories saw growth apart from salmon and beer, which were down £40.7m, and £16.1m respectively when compared to Q1 of 2017. Of the top ten product categories, breakfast cereals saw the fastest growth, up 30.3% to £111.2m.

FDF is currently working with Government to secure an ambitious sector deal for the food and drink industry. Amongst the proposals are detailed plans outlining how the industry might fulfil its export potential, building on research undertaken by Grant Thornton which identified markets manufacturers would like to target.

One of these markets is Japan, where UK exports of food and drink have grown over the past ten years, but at a rate below the average growth rate of exports from EU27 nations. In Q1 2018, exports to Japan rose by 5% on the previous year to £56.7m.

The Japanese market recorded significant growth in categories including sweet biscuits (119%), pork (88%), soft drinks (90%) and cheese (507%). It is hoped the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the 2020 Olympics in Japan will present further opportunities to build on this growth and strengthen trading ties between the UK and Japan.

Today, FDF and the Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA) are co-hosting an event entitled How to successfully export in the food and drink industry. Attendees will hear from Ananda Guha, Deputy Director, Exports and EU Exit, Food Chain Directorate, DEFRA, and Elsa Fairbanks, Director, FDEA, amongst others.

The full exports report, including supporting information about Q1 2018 food and drink exports, can be found on our Exports pages here. Supporting case studies can be found here. 

Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, FDF, said:
“Food and drink exports showed continued growth in January-March 2018. This growth was based on robust demand for the UK’s high-quality products. Much of the demand comes from nearby markets, as demonstrated by strong growth to EU27 countries. There are also significant opportunities further afield. However, these require more specialist in-market support. 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.”

Elsa Fairbanks, Director, Food & Drink Exports Association (FDEA), 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. Growth in our largest market, Ireland highlights the need for a frictionless border between North and South.

“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.”

Graham Stuart, Minister for Investment, Department for International Trade, said:
“It’s fantastic to see an increase in food and drinks exports, showing a clear global appetite for UK produce - with our products enjoyed across the world from the US to Japan.

“As an international economic department, it’s great to see so many British companies exporting their goods and services but we are determined that even more businesses build on this demand.  That is why we provide a wide range of support for UK companies such as our award-winning export credit agency, UK Export Finance, and our International Trade Advisors.”

Notes for editors

  1. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the voice of the food and drink manufacturing industry – the UK's largest manufacturing sector.
  2. The Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA) is a trade association dedicated to UK food and drink exporters representing the industry at international trade shows and providing a network of support to assist companies internationally.
  3. 'Branded' goods refer to manufactured products that have had their value increased through production. FDF's focus in terms of branded goods is on food and non-alcoholic drink.
  4. View full report: Exports snapshot - Q1 2018
  5. View supporting exports case studies
  6. FDF commissioned industry-wide report by Grant Thornton has highlighted key growth opportunities, including a section on exports, for the food and drink industry, the UK's largest manufacturing sector. View full report: Economic contribution and growth opportunities

More information

Contact Debbie McCreath, Corporate Affairs Division, at:, or +44 (0) 20 7420 7152.

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