UK food and drink exports rise despite recession

UK exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks have continued to rise despite a general slump during the recession, new figures show.

Food and drink exports increased by 4.4% to £9.65 billion in 2009, the fifth consecutive year of growth and a record high, according to research by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

The industry outperformed other manufacturing sectors, which experienced an 11.8% slump in overseas sales, the FDF said.

Exports of non-alcoholic drinks increased the most, by 20.6% to £318.6 million, driven by strong sales in EU markets such as Ireland, France, Spain and Germany.

The fish and seafood sector grew 15% to £1.16 billion, including a 42.3% rise in exports of fresh salmon.

Other high-selling products included breakfast cereals, up 17.2%, sauces and condiments, up 9.2%, and sugar confectionery, up 10.9%.

Among the highlights for UK exporters were a burgeoning Asian taste for traditional English lemon curd, a paprika crisp designed for the Holland market but proving successful across Europe and Indian chutneys selling well in Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

The Anglesey Sea Salt Company reported 45% of turnover from export sales, with organic celery salt selling in Italy and oak smoked salt used on US President Barack Obama's favourite chocolate caramels made by Fran's Chocolates in Seattle, the FDF said.

The EU remained the main destination for UK food and drink exports, accounting for 79.2% of overseas sales.

However, sales to the Oceania region (Australia and the Pacific Islands) increased by 15.9% and exports to North America grew by 14.8%.

FDF director general Melanie Leech said: "This is the fifth consecutive year of record exports by the food and drink industry, demonstrating the significant economic value of our sector.

"This strong performance is testimony to the persistence and entrepreneurial spirit of British manufacturers as well as a reflection of the quality of what they produce. I am proud of the fact our sector has continued to report significant overseas success at a time when UK exports as a whole have taken a significant hit."

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