Whisky generates £5bn a year for UK economy

Scotch Whisky Association

New figures reveal gin and beer are following in the footsteps of exporting phenomenon Scotch whisky.

The celebration of poet Robert Burns is now marked around the world, with Burns suppers enjoyed as far afield as South Korea and the USA. While a wee dram is the traditional drink of choice for Burns Night with 34 bottles shipped overseas every second – the UK’s gin and ale industries are following suit, with nearly a billion pints of beer and 150 million bottles of gin exported around the world last year.

With two thirds of the UK’s gin produced in Scotland – accounting for more than half the world’s total exports – and a record 22 breweries opening last year – bringing the total number of breweries to over 100 for the first time in more than a century – the demand for traditional Scottish drinks shows no sign of slowing.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

“Scotch whisky is a driving force of the UK food and drink industry, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all our food and drink exports each year. It’s fantastic other businesses are following suit and exporting around the world.

“I want to build on the the significant global opportunities for our food and drink businesses by giving companies the skills and confidence to start tapping into new international markets.”

Demand for Scotch whisky, the UK’s biggest food and drink export, continues to rise, with almost 900 million bottles exported between January and September last year – an increase of three per cent on 2015.  This success is set to continue, with the Scotch Whisky Association expecting seven new whisky distilleries to open in Scotland this year.

Fuelled by a growing thirst for Scotland’s craft ales, exports of beer were worth £479 million from January to October last year, a 16% rise from the same period in 2015. Exports of gin were worth nearly £400 million between January and October, an 11% increase on 2015, and total gin sales broke the £1 billion mark in 2016

Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said:

“Burns and Scotch Whisky are synonymous.  The Scottish poet penned his love for our national drink in his verse ‘O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch’ and around the globe a dram will be raised in his memory.

“Scotch exports are worth around £4 billion a year to almost 200 markets. Such demand is driving an unprecedented number of Scotch distilleries being opened. We’re committed to working with Defra to maintain export growth, leading the way for other food and drink products overseas.”

Beer, whisky and gin all form a key part of the UK Government’s plans to boost food and drink exports over the next five years. The recently launched UK Food and Drink International Action Plan aims to forge stronger economic links with key countries around the world, opening up new markets and helping first-time and existing exporters to bring a £2.9 billion boost to the UK economy.

There is a growing thirst for whisky in both the USA and Canada, where Defra is targeting an extra £579 million in exports over the next five years. The UK Government is also aiming for a £215 million export boost in Mexico and Latin America through growing demand for a wide range of British products including gin.

The UK Government recently launched a new online exporting hub, which provides a one-stop site for free advice as well as financial and regulatory support and over 1,300 live exporting opportunities. This includes over 200 current opportunities for food and drinks companies in the UK.