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Whisky ‘status’ drives rise in food and drink exports

whisky bottles
Whisky remains in demand from the EU despite Brexit

Whisky continued to be a key factor in higher food and drink exports as aspirational young consumers seek out brands associated with status and success.

Food and drink sales jumped from £8.3bn in 2021/22 to £9.4bn in the 12 months to July with strong demand for whisky from traditional markets in the EU – including France, Germany, Span and Poland — despite the impact of Brexit.

However, sales of lower margin products such as beer suffered because of Brexit-related red tape, says business advisory firm Hazlewoods.

Notable success has been achieved by UK heritage brands in whisky and gin, as international consumers drive the trend for choosing higher quality products.

Drinks exports to countries outside the EU also continue to boom. The US remains the biggest export market of Scotch whisky by value.

Despite consumers drinking fewer overall units of alcohol, the premiumisation of the drinks industry, with an emphasis on gin and whisky, had added important jobs and investment for the UK economy. The whisky industry is aiming to add another £1bn of exports over the next five years.

Rebecca Copping, associate partner at Hazlewoods, said: “British heritage brands have successfully placed themselves as a luxury in the international drinks market.

“A large chunk of this success is due to young, wealthy consumers buying drink brands that signify status and success.

“Despite volatility in the economy and high interest rates around much of the globe, consumer spend on luxury goods has held up well, although sales growth of luxury goods is slowing. This post-COVID boom in luxury goods sales certainly had a hand in increasing UK drinks exports.

“Now the industry is focused on long term growth, reaching bigger, untapped markets. The UK Government can support that by delivering trade agreements that lower barriers to expansion.

“While whisky is playing a huge role in the export increase, this is also a success story for UK drinks brands that focus on gin and other spirits. It’s the heritage image and luxury branding that draws in a lot of consumers, especially those in growing markets like India and Singapore.”

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