Press release: Exports of UK gin, beer and wine to USA increase

Americans and homesick Brits can toast the Queen’s 90th birthday with a quintessentially British gin and tonic or a pint of Yorkshire ale as US exports of our favourite beverages reached a record £361 million last year, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said at an event in Chicago today.

More than 220 million pints of ale, including from Yorkshire’s Ilkley Brewery and Aberdeenshire’s Brew Dog, were shipped to the States in 2015 worth a record £164 million. This is up 35% since last year.

Enough gin to pour 580 million gin and tonics was enjoyed in the US last year as exports rose 9% to a record £159 million – in part thanks to a UK revival led by fashionable artisanal producers like Sipsmith and Hoxton.

And sales of English sparkling wine—which is now rivalling the very best French champagne—have helped boost overall wine exports to the US by 23%.

During a special event to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, and champion British drink, the Environment Secretary toasted the industry for their hard work breaking into the lucrative American market, bringing jobs and investment back to the UK.

Speaking during the event, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

Business is booming for our iconic drink brand in the States. From our world class gins to beloved ales, it’s fantastic to see brands so synonymous with British culture becoming the drinks of choice in bars, clubs and restaurants across the US.

We already export nearly £2 billion of food and drink here every year – but we can do a whole lot better. I want to give our food and drink entrepreneurs every opportunity to drive up these figures, delivering jobs and prosperity back home. Through remaining in a reformed EU we have a much greater chance of making this a reality.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive for the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) who organised the event said:

English wine is a fast growing industry with bold ambitions to boost production and open up new export opportunities. Following the first ever English roundtable, hosted by Elizabeth Truss, the industry set targets of a 10-fold increase in wine exports and double production by 2020.

Like English wine our British gin is also experiencing a boom. We have seen an incredible rise in the number of distilleries set up in the last year with record breaking sales reaching £1 billion.

This is a massive achievement for our Great British gin and English wine makers. They are rightly very proud to be making exceptional quality British products now sought after at home and across the world.

With 300 million consumers the US is our biggest gin market, closely followed by Spain and Germany. Our successful alcohol industry already makes hundreds of millions a year from 35 free trade deals struck by the EU with over 50 countries. EU membership also means access to a market of 500 million people without tariffs or restrictions.

The free trade transatlantic partnership (TTIP) deal, currently being negotiated through the EU, could also help secure market access for thousands more UK food and drink companies, boosting exports to the United States by £500 million.

In a recent survey, 90% of the UK’s spirit and wine producers believed that leaving the EU could jeopardize £3.6 billion worth of export trade to non-EU countries, such as the US.

Further information

  1. The UK is the biggest exporter of gin in the world, exporting to 139 countries. 55% of British gin is exported overseas, making up 70% of global supply and was worth £421 million in 2015.

  2. The Q90 cocktail event held in Chicago challenged British gin and sparkling wine makers to design a special commemorative cocktail to celebrate the Queens’ 90th Birthday. Participants included Hoxton, Sipsmith, Haymans, Pernod Ricard, Ridgeview and Chapel Down sparkling wine. The event was one of several during the UK Environment Secretary’s visit to promote British food and drink in the US as part of the government’s Food is GREAT campaign.

  3. The event was one of several promotional events during the Environment Secretary’s visit to promote British food and drink in the US through the Great British Food Unit. Launched last year, the unit brings together Defra and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to turbo charge our exports, support inward investment and champion the excellence of British food and drink at home and abroad.

  4. A Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) survey revealed that 90% of respondents backed the WSTA’s stance to support the UK’s continued membership of the EU, 2% were in favour of the UK leaving and the remaining 8% were undecided or impartial

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