According to food and drink industry experts at Clydesdale Bank, the time is right for businesses to consider capitalising on export opportunities. Strong export figures for the UK’s food and drink industry in both mature and emerging markets has left the sector well-placed to enjoy a period of prolonged growth, says the Bank.
UK food and drink exports increased by 14.8% in 2011 (compared to 2010) and were worth a total of £18.1bn, according to recent figures from the Food and Drink Federation. The statistics show Ireland remains Britain’s number one export destination but emerging trends indicate there is plenty to be positive about elsewhere. These trends in 2011 included a 55% increase in exports to China, and by 49% to Poland. The figures highlight that the food and drink sector remains remarkably buoyant, despite wider speculation about the prospects for the global economy.
Justin Ellis, Food and Drink Sector specialist for Clydesdale Bank in the South, said it was important for food and drink companies to maintain a positive outlook.
“The financial reality for many exporting companies in recent months has been for continued growth. UK exports to Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia increased by 41% and 14% last year, while in the EU exports to the Netherlands and Belgium grew by around 30%,” said Justin.
“Plainly there are real opportunities for companies with a strong business model and an understanding of growing markets. The end result of achieving growth abroad will be increased support for the wider UK economy through increased production and jobs creation.”
The growth in Asian markets can be partly put down to changing eating habits, with more westernised products being bought by wealthier customers. While their supermarkets may not yet be widely stocked with UK products, there is a growing trend for specialist shops to carry well-known brands, with meat and cereals amongst the leading growing markets.
Justin said: “A change in eating habits in Asian countries has seen a substantial increase in the flow of Western products. Dairy and meat products grew by 220% in China alone last year, with demand looking to remain strong in the long term. And interest in this area is not contained to exports – Shanghai based ‘Bright Foods’ has recently taken a majority shareholding in Weetabix. Now is the time for UK companies to do their homework and find new markets for established domestic foods.”
“The Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will create a natural interest in the UK in the coming months, which will offer British companies opportunities to turn casual interest into business opportunities. Well researched business plans could allow ambitious exporters to identify niche markets abroad and help create a long term presence in growing or untapped markets.”