United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Agricultural Sectors

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-09-11


The UK imports around 46 percent of the total food it consumes and is reliant on both imports and its agricultural sector to feed its population and drive economic growth. The UK’s geography, climate, and relatively wealthy population mean it will always be a significant importer, especially of fresh produce. The United States is the largest non-European Union (EU) supplier for agricultural, food, fish, and forestry imports into the UK, which totaled $2.7 billion in 2021.

There are strong historic and cultural ties between the UK and the United States, which are also reflected in the retail and foodservice markets. The UK presents especially good market opportunities for many U.S. consumer-oriented food products, including specialty food products, “healthy” food items, wine, sauces, fish/shellfish, fruit, nuts, and juices. “Health” and convenience foods are the main driving forces in the UK value-added food and beverage market. High-quality food products, especially those perceived to have health and fitness benefits and responsive to environmental and animal welfare concerns, are preferred by UK consumers and demanded by major UK supply chains.

Consumer-oriented food and beverage products remain the most important sector, amounting to more than $1 billion of the total $2.7 billion U.S. exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK during the 2021 calendar year. Ranked as the tenth largest destination for U.S. consumer-orientated food products, the UK continues to differentiate itself from its European neighbors in this product area. U.S. wines, particularly from California, have established a high profile in the UK and remain strong, with U.S. exports valued at $195 million in calendar year 2021. There has also been notable success for branded snack foods and grocery goods, largely by generating niche markets and specialist distribution based on their quality attributes.

The UK is also a key market for U.S. fish and seafood products, which amounted to $67 million in calendar year 2021. In addition to exports of canned salmon, U.S. frozen salmon and other fish, especially pollock, are increasingly entering the UK processing sector to compensate for the decline in harvested volumes of whitefish because of low levels of fish stocks in European fishing grounds.

U.S. forestry exports to the UK have grown exponentially due to wood pellet exports for UK biomass to electricity generation. Of the $897 million in forestry export sales recorded in 2021, 83 percent can be attributed to the wood pellet trade. Other forestry product exports to the UK remain under pressure due to strong competition from low-cost, third-country suppliers as well as EU competitors, particularly the Scandinavian countries. Technical barriers in the form of differing standards and certification requirements also make trade difficult.

The UK is currently experiencing a cost-of-living crisis. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), rising food, energy, and fuel costs resulted in UK inflation hitting a 40-year high figure of 9.1 percent in May 2022. On August 3, the Bank of England updated its inflation forecast, predicting inflation to peak at 13 percent by the end of 2022.  Since January 2022, food and non-alcoholic beverage prices have risen significantly, while staples such as meat, bread, dairy, and cereals have had the largest price rises. Prices are changing on a weekly basis, with year on year increases as high as 50 percent on essential grocery items.

The food industry has experienced labor shortages. This is especially the case with British producers not having enough seasonal workers for summer and fall harvests. Seasonal worker shortages are an issue throughout the UK, with UK producers having only 25 percent of staff needed to harvest crops. Consequently, producers are struggling to supply produce to retailers, resulting in a greater reliance on imports. The war in Ukraine has also had a significant impact, as Ukrainians previously made up 67 percent of the seasonal workers in the UK. These shortages has been aggravated further by the increasing time taken to process visas for non-UK nationals as well as UK workers unwillingness to fill farm labor vacancies while the job market remains strong in other areas of economy.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Best Products/Prospects

  • Processed Products: health food, mainstream grocery, snack foods
  • Dried and Processed Fruit: cranberries, dried cherries, prunes, raisins, wild berries
  • Nuts: almonds, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
  • Fish and Seafood: cod, pollack, salmon, other fish products
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: apples, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, table grapes
  • Meat: hormone-free beef and pork products
  • Drinks: craft beer, spirits, wine, low alcohol products
  • Food Ingredients: any product used for further processing
  • Wood pellets and other waste/residues: for renewable fuels.

Table 1: Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Product Exports to the UK by Value & Calendar Year ($ Millions)







Forest Products 






Wine & Beer 






Tree Nuts (including coconuts, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, pistachios, etc.) 






Food Preparations 






Distilled Spirits 






Processed Fruit & Vegetables  






Fresh Fruit & Vegetables 






Seafood Products 












Bakery Goods, Cereals, Pasta







Table 2: Opportunites and Constraints



The scale of the U.S. food industry may offer price competitiveness on large volume orders. 

A free trade agreement between the UK and EU means EU competitors do not pay import duty on goods to the UK. The United States pays 0-25 percent import duty, depending on the product.

The UK climate limits growing seasons and types of products grown. 

Trade barriers imposed on U.S. products such as meat and poultry.

The diversity of the U.S. population creates innovative food products and concepts that are often mirrored in the UK. 

U.S. Exporters must meet strict UK retailer rules on food safety, traceability, environmental issues, and plant inspection.

The United States is a popular destination for UK tourists, and familiarity with U.S. products is widespread.

Labels, including nutritional panels, need to be changed. Pack sizes and palletization may also need changing. 

A common language means the UK is a natural gateway into Europe. 

Lobbying against U.S. food production standards intensified at the start of U.S.– UK trade agreement talks.

The UK government is currently working on less onerous legislation to govern products of gene editing.

The UK food industry has mostly managed GMO ingredients out of the supply chain except for animal feed.

Strong interest in innovative products, particularly in the natural, “wholesome” and “health” food categories. 

Product flavorings must be adjusted to market preference, e.g., sweet popcorn, jam-like relishes and less spicy chili flavoring.

U.S. producers have an opportunity to promote products that focus on the environment, sustainability, and health.

Supermarket chains demand significant volume, and their concentration can make market access difficult initially. Trial listings must give results in a short time or product will be de-listed.

There are many specialty importers capable of and interested in importing from the United States.



The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is represented in the UK by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) at the U.S. Embassy in London. FAS works to improve foreign market access for U.S. agricultural, fish and forestry products and operates programs designed to build new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace.

The primary role of FAS/London is to advise U.S. exporters and to increase U.S. market presence by focusing resources on viable product categories sought after by UK buyers. The FAS office also works on detection and elimination of trade barriers; analysis of and reporting on the UK agricultural situation, outlook, and market opportunities for U.S. agricultural, fish and forest products; and representation of U.S. agricultural policies to the UK market. FAS/London works with marketing partners such as U.S. trade associations, State departments of agriculture, small businesses, and cooperatives to implement a unified export strategy.

FAS provides a range of free services to assist U.S. exporters of agricultural products in achieving export success. More detailed information can be obtained by contacting:


Tel: +44 20 7891 3313

Email: aglondon@usda.gov

Website: https://www.savorthestates.org/

Twitter: @USagricultureUK

Instagram: @savorthestates

Information on FAS global services can be found at FAS Online.