The Scottish drinks industry has another cause for celebration this Burns Night as new government figures reveal that beer and gin exports are catching up with those of ‘guid auld Scotch’.
Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom has a plan to boost UK food and drinks exports by £2.9bn in the next five years
The annual celebration of poet Robert Burns, held on the poet’s birth date of 25 January, is now marked around the world, with Burns suppers enjoyed as far afield as South Korea and the US.
While a ‘wee dram’ of Scotch is the traditional drink of choice for Burns Night – with HMRC overseas trade statistics revealing that Scotch exports are currently shipped at a rate of 34 bottles every second – UK gin and ale industries are also experiencing a marked rise, Leadsom said.
Defra figures reveal that nearly a billion pints of beer and 150 million bottles of gin were exported from the UK 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 more than 100 for the first time in more than a century – the demand for traditional Scottish drinks shows no sign of slowing.
“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,” Leadsom said.
“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.
“This Burns Night I would encourage people around the world to celebrate with the very best the Scotland has to offer.”
A statement from Defra also noted that demand for Scotch whisky – the UK’s biggest food and drink export, worth £400bn a year – continues to rise, with almost 900m bottles exported between January and September last year – an increase of 3% on 2015. This success is set to continue, it said, 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 £400m between January and October – an 11% increase on 2015 – and total gin sales broke the £1bn mark in 2016.
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 £2.9bn boost to the UK economy.
In particular, Defra has identified a growing thirst for whisky in both the US and Canada, where it is targeting an extra £579m in exports over the next five years. A target of £215m in export growth is also set for Mexico and Latin America amid growing demand for a wide range of British products, including gin.
“Whisky is a vital part of any Burns night celebration – and these statistics show the industry is going from strength to strength,” Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said.
“They also show the growing thirst for other fantastic Scottish drinks such as gin and craft beer, which have seen business booming.”