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: 2021-09-22

Overview 

The UK imports around 40 percent of the total food it consumes and is reliant on both imports and its agricultural sector to feed itself and drive economic growth. Eating local and in season is in accord with the values of middle to high income households, but few are willing to buy asparagus or strawberries only when in season, or purchase beef or lamb that cost significantly more only because they are British. The UK’s geography, climate, and growing, relatively wealthy, population means it will always be a significant importer, especially of fresh produce. The United States is the largest non-European Union (EU) supplier for total agricultural, food, fish, and forestry imports into the UK ($2.8 billion in 2020).

There are strong historic and cultural ties between the UK and the United States, which are obvious in 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 environment and animal welfare considerations, 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 total U.S. exports of agricultural, fish, and forestry products to the UK in calendar year 2020. 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 $236 million in calendar year 2020. There has also been notable success for branded snack foods and grocery goods, largely by generating niche markets and specialist distribution based upon their quality attributes.  

The UK is also a key market for U.S. fish and seafood products ($89 million in calendar year 2020). Once a predominantly canned salmon market, U.S. seafood exports to the UK have fallen in recent years; however, the last two years have seen exports increase slightly. Fish and frozen salmon, and increasingly pollock, enter 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 $925 million in forestry products recorded in export sales during 2020, $770 million (83 percent) can be attributed to 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, such as Scandinavian countries. Technical barriers regarding differing standards and certification requirements also make trade difficult.

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, and 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
  • Wood pellets and other waste/residues for renewable fuels.

Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Product Exports to the UK by Value & Calendar Year

($ Millions)

  

2016 

2017 

2018

2019

2020

Other Value-Added Wood (including wood for fuel, finished wood products, builders’ joinery, etc.) 

750 

730 

847

930

925

Wine & Beer 

362 

265 

261

249

250

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

199 

211 

197

211

197

Food Preparations 

192 

157 

167

151

156

Seafood Products 

104 

82 

49

48

89

Fresh Fruit & Vegetables 

147 

117 

115

93

85

Distilled Spirits 

122 

186 

190

111

83

Soybeans

90

0

109

100

60

Bakery Goods, Cereals, Pasta

66

58

49

49

56

Processed Fruit & Vegetables  

86 

78 

59

49

54

 

Opportunities 

Constraints 

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

UK imports from EU competitors are not subject to import duties while imports from the United States are subject to a 0 to 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 e.g., meat and poultry.

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

Must meet UK retailer rules on food safety, traceability, environmental issues, and plant inspection that differ from those in the United States. 

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 that the UK is a natural gateway into Europe. 

Attempts by anti-U.S. lobby to disparage U.S. food production standards intensified at the start of U.S.– UK trade agreement talks

The UK government is currently consulting stakeholders on taking a more positive approach to gene editing.

There is some public opposition to biotech (GMO) ingredients. The UK food industry has mostly managed GMO ingredients out of the supply chain except for animal feed.

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

Taste buds differ, e.g., in the UK, popcorn is sweet, relishes are like jam, and spicy doesn’t always mean high chili content.  

The U.S. has 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 and interested in importing from the United States.

 

Resources


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: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 UK trade and public. FAS/London works in conjunction with marketing partners such as U.S. trade associations, State departments of agriculture, small businesses, and cooperatives to implement a unified export strategy. 

FAS/London 
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.  

 

 

Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Product Exports to the UK by Value & Calendar Year

($ Millions)

  

2016 

2017 

2018

2019

2020

Other Value-Added Wood (including wood for fuel, finished wood products, builders’ joinery, etc.) 

750 

730 

847

930

925

Wine & Beer 

362 

265 

261

249

250

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

199 

211 

197

211

197

Food Preparations 

192 

157 

167

151

156

Seafood Products 

104 

82 

49

48

89

Fresh Fruit & Vegetables 

147 

117 

115

93

85

Distilled Spirits 

122 

186 

190

111

83

Soybeans

90

0

109

100

60

Bakery Goods, Cereals, Pasta

66

58

49

49

56

Processed Fruit & Vegetables  

86 

78 

59

49

54

 

Opportunities 

Constraints 

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

UK imports from EU competitors are not subject to import duties while imports from the United States are subject to a 0 to 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 e.g., meat and poultry.

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

Must meet UK retailer rules on food safety, traceability, environmental issues, and plant inspection that differ from those in the United States. 

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 that the UK is a natural gateway into Europe. 

Attempts by anti-U.S. lobby to disparage U.S. food production standards intensified at the start of U.S.– UK trade agreement talks

The UK government is currently consulting stakeholders on taking a more positive approach to gene editing.

There is some public opposition to biotech (GMO) ingredients. The UK food industry has mostly managed GMO ingredients out of the supply chain except for animal feed.

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

Taste buds differ, e.g., in the UK, popcorn is sweet, relishes are like jam, and spicy doesn’t always mean high chili content.  

The U.S. has 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 and interested in importing from the United States.

 

Resources 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is represented in the UK by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 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 UK trade and public. FAS/London works in conjunction 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:

FAS/London 
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.