FDF says there are ‘plenty of opportunities in foreign markets’ to seize

new report from Santander and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has called ‘untapped overseas export markets’, including The UAE and wider Gulf Region, China and the USA and Canada, a ‘golden opportunity for recovery and growth’ for businesses across the food and drink sector.

The sector faces record-low confidence levels following a variety of challenges brought about by Covid-19, including the closure of the hospitality and out-of-home sectors, rising costs and a fall in exports, and a reduction in domestic turnover.

The report highlights export opportunities in three key market regions; the UAE and the wider Gulf region, China, and the USA and Canada with insights from Santander’s experienced sector and international specialists who support businesses looking to explore overseas opportunities.


Exports to the UK’s third largest non-EU preferential trade partner have grown by 5.7% so far in 2020, led by exports of gin, beef and salmon.


Closures to the hospitality sector due to Covid-19 have led to an increase in demand for ready to consume alcoholic drinks. UK exports of beer to the USA have increased by 5.8% (y-o-y) from January to May this year. There has also been significant investment in home delivery as US supermarket chains have sought to increase their e-commerce offerings in recent months.


China has seen rapid growth in demand as consumers continue to perceive UK products to be safe and of high quality, with a sense of heritage. Beef and pork exports have risen by over £60 million so far this year compared with the same period the year before.

UAE and the Gulf

The Covid-19 crisis has seen an increase in expected sales from retail – up to 90% from 70% in 2019. The increasing focus on healthier lifestyles in the region has seen increased demand for organic, functional foods, and nutritionally rich products.

The FDF has also identified seven steps for recovery designed to ‘successfully restart all areas of industry’, including protecting the UK’s supply chain integrity and competitive position and accelerating plans to increase UK exports.

“Manufacturers and hidden heroes working across the supply chain have ensured continued access to essential food and drink for UK consumers, diminishing the impacts of Covid-19 on industry,” said Ian Wright CBE, FDF chief executive.

“As the dust begins to settle, we can now see how the pandemic has had a seriously damaging impact on 2020‘s overseas sales of UK food and drink. These were worth over £23 billion in 2019. While that figure is certain to fall for this year, there are still plenty of opportunities in foreign markets for UK food and drink manufacturers to seize in what remains of this year and as we look to 2021.

“As businesses turn toward economic recovery, ensuring a quick return to growth will be essential to support resilience in our industry. We will continue to work closely with Government and industry partners, like Santander, to safeguard a sector recovery that will deliver a return to sustainable export growth right across the UK.”

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