New research shows 81% of businesses in the food and drink industry are currently exporting-

-Over three quarters (78%) of food and drink businesses expect their export sales to increase1 in the next year-

-Over a quarter of the UK’s food and drink (26%) businesses see China as their biggest potential export opportunity-

London: 27 April 2022: Businesses in the UK’s food and drink sector are ambitious for international growth and see exporting as key to their success, according to new research released today from Alibaba Group UK, in partnership with Institute of Export and International Trade. 

The study of more than 3,000 businesses across the UK found that 81% of businesses in the food and drink sector are currently exporting. Over three quarters (78%) of these business owners surveyed expect their export sales to increase1 in the next 12 months.

85%2 of food and drink businesses said exporting had boosted their revenue. Beyond the economic benefits of exporting, the research from Alibaba indicates the far-reaching positive impact on the UK’s food and drink exporters: 

·         Exporting businesses are more resilient, with 85% saying exporting had made their business stronger2

·         85% of respondents said exporting had fuelled innovation within their companies2

·         81% of businesses said they had increased their headcount as a result2

·         86% said exporting had relieved the pressure of doing business in the UK2

When it comes to export markets, many businesses in the food and drink sector are looking close to home. Nearly a third (30%) regard the UK’s nearest neighbours in the European Union (EU) as one of the markets which present the biggest export opportunity. Looking to future growth, North America (31%) and China (26%) present the biggest opportunities.

Despite the positive outlook, many businesses perceive challenges that could stand in the way of their export ambitions. The top five biggest export barriers cited by food and drink businesses are listed below:

·         Price competition (22%)

·         Supply chain and logistical issues (21%)

·         Economic uncertainty (21%)

·         Political uncertainty (20%)

·         Lack of demand for products in overseas markets (20%)

For businesses focused on international growth, as many as 80% of those surveyed are currently using online marketplaces to boost their export sales3.  

Over a quarter of businesses based in the sector (28%) started working with a marketplace during the pandemic, with the pandemic providing a strong impetus for businesses to adopt digital tools. On top of this, 84% of businesses in the food and drink sector said2 that exporting has driven digital transformation for their business.

Zarina Kanji, Business Development for Food and Beverage brands at Tmall Global, Alibaba Group in Europe, comments:

“Our research suggests that food and drink companies are seizing the enormous global export opportunities which exist across the world. 

“By trading overseas, even small businesses can expand, creating more job opportunities and economic growth. Once a business starts to export, they realise the benefits outweigh the perceived barriers and they grow in confidence. We’re focused on helping businesses of all sizes on their export journey.”

Marco Forgione, Director General of Institute of Export and International Trade, added:

“This research confirms what we have long known – that exporting firms are more sustainable, profitable and resilient – but also sheds light on some of the many challenges that prevent businesses from exporting at all or exporting as much as they could.

“The whole trade community needs to work together to combat and reduce these challenges. IOE&IT is committed to promoting trade as a force for good and doing all we can to help every business start or expand its export activity, regardless of size, sector or home market.”


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