Total exports of UK food and drink grew by 10.5% last year to a record figure of more than £20bn, according to new figures.
The Food and Drink Federation data revealed that exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks led the way in 2016 with growth of 11.5% to £5.2bn.
Excluding alcohol, the UK’s top three export categories were chocolate, salmon and cheese, with exports of salmon up 16.4% by value.
Exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drink led the way in 2016 with growth of 11.5% to £5.2bn, the 16th year of consecutive growth.
The USA is now the second largest export market for the UK and the largest outside Europe, with exports increasing by 13% to £2.2bn in 2016. The UK’s two largest export markets, Ireland (up by 8% to £3.34bn) and the USA, now buy more than a quarter of all UK food and drink exports collectively.
Sales to non-EU markets continued to grow at a faster rate than to the EU, at 15.6% to £4bn, however 71.4% of food and drink excluding alcohol was sold to EU Member States.
Demand was up in every single one of the UK’s top 20 markets in 2016, with China the fastest growing market, up 51.1% on 2015 to £439.5m.
The fall in the price of the pound has helped to boost UK export competitiveness, but it has also made essential imports more expensive, with the UK’s food and drink trade deficit up by 5.7% to -£22.4bn.
Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “It’s great to see the global appetite for British food and drink continues to grow – thanks to our well-established reputation for taste, quality and high animal health and welfare standards.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, there has never been a better time to become more outward looking – developing new trading relationships and establishing our place as a truly Global Britain.”