Overseas sales of baked goods have risen more than 15% since 2014 – with sweet biscuits accounting for the greatest increase in spend.

Overall exports of baked goods (savoury and sweet biscuits, bread and cakes) were valued at £903.6m in 2018, up from £784.8m in 2014 (see table below).

Sweet biscuits accounted for £416m of exports in 2018 – up more than £40m over the past five years.

Among biscuit suppliers that have enjoyed success in overseas markets are Burton’s, Nairn’s and McVitie’s owner Pladis, which said the brand achieved double-digit volume and value growth in the Middle East in 2018. As well as 42% growth in Saudi Arabia and 69% in Greater China, the company said Australia had been a standout success following packaging format changes and expansion beyond supermarkets into petrol and convenience stores.

Pladis has now formed a global McVitie’s marketing team, based in west London. Changes to operations include switching from a third-party distributor to using only the Pladis North American warehouse facility. And, this year, McVitie’s will be entering the South American market for the first time.

Cakes were the one area of the baked goods market to register a year-on-year slump in exports, with value down 13% year on year.

Premier Foods has for some years been a driver of growth in cake exports, but faced problems in 2018. In its trading update for the last quarter of the year, the company reported a 27% year-on-year slump in sales from its international division. At the time, the business said it was continuing to work through the effects of high stocks of Cadbury cake in the Australian supply chain, while sales volumes had been impacted after Premier ramped up prices paid by export wholesalers “to ensure competitive product pricing across all markets”.

Despite growth in all other segments, overall growth in bakery exports has slowed from 8.4% between 2016 and 2017 to just 0.4% between 2017 and 2018 – a trend seen across the UK food and drink exports market. Growth in total food and drink exports has slowed from 9.7% in 2016/2017 to 2.5% in 2017/2018.


Exports fell in seven of the top 20 markets for UK food and drink, including the US and France, which fell by 2.2% and 3.4% respectively.

Both countries are major importers of UK-manufactured wheat-based products (which includes breakfast cereals and pasta, as well as baked goods). However, the largest importer is Ireland, which received almost a third of UK exports.

“In defiance of the uncertainty caused by the UK’s exit from the EU, UK food and drink exports continued to grow through 2018,” said Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright.

“It is still unclear what this week will hold for our resilient industry, but regardless, we are working with Government to negotiate a Food and Drink Sector Deal to support those companies that are exporting, or want to export, our high-quality products around the world.”