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The top ten UK exports in 2016

4 min read

28 March 2016

It’s a well-known fact that consumers around the world will pay a hefty premium for British branded goods – but what are the products with the biggest appeal? Real Business did some digging and came up with this list of the most popular British products worldwide by annual export value.

(1) Chemicals £52bn

From food additives to fragrances, the UK economy churns out many tonnes of chemicals each year, mainly produced in the north of England and Scotland.

(2) Cars £24.8bn

Whether it’s MINIs made in Oxford or Jaguars from Birmingham, Britain’s car industry continues to hold up better than expected after decades of turbulence. In fact, 2015 was the industry’s best year in a decade, with production at its highest in years and almost 80 per cent of the vehicles produced exported.

(3) Planes, jets and spacecraft £24.7bn

Following hot on the heels of four-wheeled vehicles, British producers of these slightly faster modes of transport also benefit from healthy worldwide demand. The UK’s aerospace sector is the largest in the world, and is responsible for the wings on an Airbus A380 and the engines of a Boeing 787.

(4) Art 11.3bn

British exports of art have more than doubled since 2005, with London auction-houses widely seen as the best place in Europe to flog a painting if the seller wants to maximise its value. Much-hyped YBAs like Damien Hirst seem to single-handedly play a big role in the international value of the British art – the British conceptual artist broke records when a two-day sale of his art brought in more than £111m in 2008.

(5) Medical devices £4bn

With ten per cent of the world’s best medical schools based in the UK, it’s no surprise that Britain is so good at churning out innovative medical technology – or that such devices are so popular with the rest of the world.

Read on to find on which alcoholic drink appears on the list in its own right, such is its popularity abroad.

(6) Scotch £1.7bn

Despite alcohol in general playing an important role in the British export economy, sales of Scottish whisky are so phenomenal that the product can hold its own against entire categories of competitors. Exports to India are growing particularly healthily – despite a whopping 150 per cent tariff on them.

(7) Books £1.45bn

Over 20,000 tonnes of physical books were exported from Heathrow airport alone in the year 2015, though the proportion of exports made up of digital reading material is also growing – 17 per cent of the UK publishing industry’s sales were digital in 2014.

(8) Beer £629m

Showing that the UK economy is good at producing alcohol as well as consuming it, Britain’s beer exports are bubbling away at a healthy volume – over one billion pints of British lager, ale and bitter are enjoyed around the world every year. And exports are increasingly made up of microbreweries and craft makers as well as big names, with BrewDog exporting to over five countries despite being less than a decade old.

(9) Chocolate £579.6m

The UK’s most popular exported food has seen growth slow down recently, but still packs a punch. The sugary treat is particularly popular with consumers in Africa and the Middle East.

(10) Salmon £353m

Last year was a bad year for Scottish salmon due to the strength of the pound against the Norwegian kroner, but the 74m tonnes of fish that the UK manages to shift abroad each year are still not something to be sniffed at.