Food and non-alcoholic drink exports rose to more than £12bn (£12,152.4m) in 2011, according to the Food & Drink Federation (FDF).

It said the 2011 results showed an increase of 11.4% on 2010, which had been a record-breaking year for food exports.

Export growth has been fuelled by a strong performance in new and emerging markets, including Eastern Europe and the Far East, explained the FDF.

China entered the top 20 export destinations for the first time with a 55% increase on 2010, partly due to changing tastes and an increasingly Westernised diet. South Korea increased by 37% and Hong Kong by 41%.

Established non-EU markets also performed well, with exports to the US rising by 25% between 2010-2011. The non-EU share of the £12bn total was 23% compared to 77% for the EU.
The UK’s traditional EU customers also remained loyal, with Ireland remaining the top export destination closely followed by France and the Netherlands. Dutch interest in UK products increased, with a 30% rise echoed by Belgium (29.9%), and Germany (15%).
Melanie Leech, FDF director general, said: “While the domestic market is growing at a steady rate, we are seeing very strong performance from food and drink exports. There remains considerable interest in British heritage brands and around our health and wellbeing innovation. Companies understand the importance of developing new markets, competing successfully in many cases against other experienced exporters in France, Germany and Spain.
“We were delighted to work with government on the export action plan, launched earlier this year, which should be of benefit in particular to SMEs, which are by far the biggest sector of our industry and have the potential to grow in existing and emerging markets.”