International Trade

The definitive business advent calendar: 18 December – Bite into this £95.4bn sector

4 min read

18 December 2015

Former deputy editor

Father Christmas will have visited by this time next week and as we draw closer to the 25 December, our countdown continues to now reveal just how successful one sector is with tasty turnover of £95.4bn.

Of course, the industry we’re referring to is food, glorious food.

Whether it’s servings of hot sausage and mustard or cold jelly and custard that tickle your tastebuds, the number of British food and drink manufacturers rose to 8,225 in 2014 – a six per cent increase throughout the year.

As such, the sector is the largest of all manufacturing industries and accounts for 18.3 per cent of turnover with £95.4bn, according to Santander Corporate & Commercial’s study of ONS data.

Despite that, a third of Brits think the food and drink industry is struggling, which has led another 18 per cent to think UK cuisine is unpopular around the world – perhaps with the belief that fish and chips, pies and roast dinners will fall on closed international mouths.

However, £12.8bn worth of food and soft drinks created in Britain are exported globally each year and 75 per cent of that goes to the EU.

Indeed, Richard Branson’s Virgin Foodpreneur Festival in October provided small British cuisine companies the opportunity to scale through a US distribution deal with target.

Branson’s right-hand man and judging panel member, Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, said: “The US market can be a holy grail to young British brands looking to expand internationally. I am excited to be working with Virgin StartUp on our joint mission to find pioneering entrepreneurs and help them gain the momentum needed to crack new markets.

“Drawing on my own experience and the excellent opportunities on offer through the collaboration with Target Corporation, I am confident that soon US consumers will soon be discovering some fantastic new British food brands.”

Read more on the food and drink industry:

According to Santander, Brits think the UK exports the most to the US, Ireland, Spain and France. The truth is that Ireland is the biggest export market, followed by France, the Netherland, Germany and then the US.

Beers and wines, cheese and dairy, local meats, confectionery and spirits are the items respondents would most like to see exported, while its believed whisky is the biggest export.

Clearly they didn’t account for the sweet-tooth community, as chocolate is the UK’s biggest export with homegrown brands generating £257m for the economy.

“The UK food and drink manufacturing sector has become a major UK success story on an international scale,” said Mark Collings, head of international, Santander SME Banking.

“British people are proud of their local produce and certainly miss their favourite tea, chocolate, meat and cheese when travelling abroad, yet many do not realise quite how popular these items have become beyond our shores. Over the years the ‘Made in Britain’ brand has become synonymous with good quality products and services.”

By region, London leads the food and drink sector with 1,020 firms, followed by 930 in the North West, 855 in the South East, 845 in the South West and 815 in Scotland.

17 December – All hail the sharing economy