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Scottish food exports break £1bn barrier

12 July 2011

Scottish Development International (SDI) has today announced a record increase in Scottish food and drink exports during 2010, with food exports alone breaking the £1bn barrier for the first time ever.

The new figures, which have been extracted from official HMRC export statistics for 2010, show that food exports soared by almost 14% to £1.06bn, and the combined total international sales for Scottish food and Scotch whisky increased by 11% to £4.51bn during last year.

The international success of the Scottish food and drink industry has long been supported by strong Scotch whisky sales, and, as in previous years, Scotch whisky exports accounted for the lion's share of the overall food and drink exports figure during 2010, standing at £3.45bn (up 10% on 2009).

However, news that food exports have broken the £1bn barrier for the first time is an extremely positive development, signalling increasing international awareness and appreciation of the quality and provenance of Scottish food, and Scotland's distinguished heritage as a food-producing nation.

The largest share of food exports was in the fish and seafood sector, with international sales hitting £620m. This represents growth of 12% in terms of value compared the previous year, and this result has been aided by a collaborative industry effort to boost overseas demand for Scottish fish and seafood, and in particular Scottish salmon.

Fresh salmon enjoyed an increase in export volumes of 20%, rising to 78,611 tonnes from 65,480 tonnes the previous year thanks to an increasing global appreciation for the product's PGI status and its premium taste, quality and character. Seven of the top 10 export markets grew in volume in 2010 with the USA the biggest international market for Scottish salmon (31,924 tonnes).

Elsewhere, the greatest growth in international sales during 2010 was registered in the fruit and vegetable (54%) category, thanks to a significant lift in exports of Scottish seed potatoes.

Other notable figures are as follows:

The fastest growing markets for Scottish food products are:

  • Poland (up 139% on 2009)
  • UAE (+114%), Germany (+29%)
  • USA (+25%), Canada (+24%)
  • Japan (+22%) and France (+15%).

In the drinks category, Scotch whisky exports grew by 10% in value to £3.45bn. Eight of the top ten markets grew in value, with a strong performance in the USA (+19% to £499m) which remained Scotch's largest export market by value. The 'BRIC' markets continued to develop, with exports growing to:

  • Brazil (+12% to £67m)
  • China (+24% to £55m)
  • India (+46% to £41m)
  • Russia (+61% to £31m).

For Scottish food products, Europe continues to be the main destination with France, Ireland and Spain listed as the top three export markets.

In recent years, SDI, working in partnership with industry organisations, has made a concerted effort to encourage Scottish food and drink companies to become more internationally ambitious, providing new opportunities to access international markets and equipping them with the skills and expertise needed to compete at a global level.

This is achieved through a variety of initiatives including Smart Exporter, the international preparedness programme, plus an ongoing schedule of exhibitions, missions and learning journeys.

In the last year SDI has led delegations of Scottish food and drink companies to key international trade shows such as the European Seafood Exposition (Brussels), Boston Seafood Show (Boston) Gulfood (Dubai), SIAL (Paris) and Summer Fancy Foods (New York).

Commenting, Anne MacColl, chief executive of Scottish Development International, said:

"This fantastic result is testimony to the hard work of indigenous food and drink industry and the growing international perception of Scotland as a world-leading producer of high quality food and drink.

"We are very proud of this reputation and this is something we are continuing to nurture through our ongoing contact with some of the world's leading food and drink buyers, with whom we meet regularly via our network of overseas trade and investment offices.

"The numbers show that traditional export markets such as Europe and the US are proving very attractive to Scottish companies, but we can't underestimate the opportunities further afield in Asia. Thanks to the competitive exchange rate, Scottish goods are now up to 40% cheaper than they were two years ago and Asia has plenty of high net worth individuals who have money in their pockets.

"As such, our message to Scottish companies is to be bold and broaden your horizons; the opportunity is out there and SDI can support you in taking those first steps to achieve your global ambitions."

Ray Jones, chair of Scotland Food & Drink, added:

"It is extremely encouraging to see such outstanding export figures. It's a major boost for the industry and provides an important contribution towards our target of growing the industry to £12.5bn by 2017. The global economy is changing at a fast pace with new opportunities emerging everyday. It's crucial Scotland's food and drink companies embrace these chances and consider emerging geographical and sectoral markets."

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said:

"Scottish food and drink is world-renowned for its provenance and quality and I am pleased to see its top reputation is reaping rewards for the sector as reflected through this increase in international sales and exports.

"This is excellent news for Scotland's food and drink industry. I am delighted to hear exports have reached record-breaking levels, with food exports alone breaking the £1bn barrier for the first time. The growth in the fish and seafood sector is particularly notable, with Scottish salmon in high demand overseas thanks to its protected status and premium taste."

Earlier this year, SDI announced a series of impressive contract wins for Scottish food & drink companies in North America, thanks to a programme of activity designed to help companies increase exports to the region.

Companies including Mackies, Klinge Foods, Innis and Gunn, Deans of Huntly, Mackays, Henshelwood Fine Foods, Harviestoun Brewery, St James Smokehouse, Apple Snapz, Stoats and Lazy Day Foods are projecting combined new sales of almost £20m in the USA over the next three years, thanks to a strategic programme of support from SDI.

SDI supports the work of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scotland Food & Drink to grow the food and drink industry in Scotland, by working to ensure that companies have access to the international expertise, networks and events needed to enable them to exploit international opportunities.

Further information: 

  • Statistics for Scottish food exports during 2010 come from a data set provided by HMRC. This represents the exports of all produce leaving Scotland from a Scottish port / airport during 2010.
  • For the majority of categories, HMRC data cannot identify Scottish produce shipped overseas from ports / airports elsewhere in the UK. As such, the food exports figure should be considered as a conservative representation of the true food exports figure.
  • Within the drinks category, however, HMRC is able to identify Scotch whisky exports leaving the UK from any port / airport, and therefore we are able to provide an accurate figure for overall whisky exports.   As such, since whisky exports represent the vast majority of Scottish drinks exports, we have used the total food exports plus total whisky exports to give the most accurate possible exports figure for Scottish food & drink exports within the current dataset.
  • Scottish Development International (SDI) works to attract inward investment and knowledge to Scotland to help the economy grow. It also helps Scottish based companies to trade overseas and promotes Scotland as a good place to live, work and do business. It is a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and its work is guided by the Scottish Government's strategy for economic development in Scotland.

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