2016 Export Statistics

UK food and drink export statistics 2016

In this report:

Key indicators

Branded goods

Executive summary

  • Full year 2016 exports of food and drink exceeded £20bn for the first time, up 10.5% on 2015
  • Full year 2016 exports of food and non-alcoholic drink hit record levels of almost £14bn, up 11.8% on 2015
  • Exports of branded goods saw growth of 11.5% to £5.2bn compared to 2015
  • Exports to non-EU markets (+ 15.6%) of food and non-alcoholic drink out-performed EU markets (+ 10.4%), however the EU buys 71.4% of the total by value
  • The food and drink trade deficit increased by 5.7% in 2016
  • UK products were exported to a record 217 international markets in 2016, five more than in 2015

What happened throughout 2016?

  • The UK economy grew by 2% in 2016, down from 2.2% in 2015
  • GDP increased by 1.9% across the EU28
  • Food and drink exports were stronger at the end of the year, with Q4 2016 up 24% on Q1 2016
  • Demand was up in every single one of the UK's top 20 markets in 2016
  • The sharp fall in the value of sterling following the vote to leave the EU has made UK exports more competitive overseas
  • We expect to see the full impact of weaker sterling filtering through in H1 2017 as companies negotiate new sales agreements
  • Strong export growth in 2016 has been supported by the collective efforts of industry and Government to promote UK food and drink overseas

Top 10 products

Top 20 markets

UK food and drink exports

FDF Ambition

  • FDF's industry ambition is to grow exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drink by a third, from a 2014 baseline, reaching £6bn by 2020
  • With 2016 branded goods exports already reaching £5.2bn, overall growth is on track to reach our target by 2020 with both non-EU and EU exports having increased over the year

Branded Exports

  • Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drink continued to grow in 2016, up 11.5% on 2015, with growth in each of the top 15 markets
  • Together the top 5 markets buy over 50% of UK branded food and non-alcoholic drink, seeing combined growth of 8.6%
  • The % share of UK exports to the EU fell from 69.3% in 2015 to 67.5% in 2015 as sales to non-EU markets grew faster than to the EU
  • The majority of branded exports were made up of food preparations, meat, fish and dairy products
  • The US was the largest non-EU market for branded UK food and non-alcoholic drink, up 24% in the year to £197.1m

Chinese Appetite for UK Branded Goods Grows

  • China was the fastest growing market in the UK's top 20, up 51.1% (y-o-y) to £439.5m China's appetite for branded food and nonalcoholic drink has risen by 50% in 2016 to £84.7m
  • China is highlighted as a priority export market in the joint Government-Industry International Action Plan for Food and Drink
  • We've seen a growing interest in UK afternoon tea (scones, jam, tea, sandwiches and cakes) in China linked to the popularity of programmes such as Downton Abbey and the Great British Bake Off
  • This has boosted UK exports of 'afternoon tea' including cakes, tea, milk and spring water to China in 2016: tea (+63%), milk powder (+134%), cakes (+26%), spring water (+139%)

More information


Last reviewed: 22 Aug 2017