This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 9/8/2018

The UK is a very important market for U.S. agricultural products.  In calendar year 2017, U.S. exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK were $2.7 billion. There are strong historic and cultural ties between the UK and the U.S., which are obvious in consumer trends in retail and foodservice markets. The UK presents market opportunities for many U.S. consumer-oriented products, including specialty food products, “healthy” food items, wine, sauces, fruit, nuts and juices. “Health” and convenience foods are the main driving forces in the UK value-added food and beverage market. Consumers in this relatively wealthy country are looking for variety in high quality food products especially those perceived to have health benefits and a strong provenance.

Consumer-oriented food and beverage products remain the most important sector, amounting to 38% ($1.04 billion) of total U.S. exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK in calendar year 2017.  Ranked as the ninth largest destination for U.S. consumer-orientated food products, the UK continues to differentiate itself from its European neighbors in this product area.  Within this category it is worth noting that U.S. exports of tree nuts, chocolate and cocoa, and condiments and sauces all set records to the UK in 2017. U.S. wines, particularly from California, have established a high profile in the UK and remain strong with U.S. exports valued at $264 million in calendar year 2017.  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 ($82 million in calendar year 2017). Once a predominantly canned salmon market, U.S. seafood exports to the UK for calendar year 2017 reveal that the value of canned products has dropped to $34 million of the total. Fresh and frozen salmon, and increasingly pollack, enter the UK processing sector to compensate for the decline in harvested volumes of whitefish as a result of low levels of fish stocks in European fishing grounds.

U.S. forestry product exports to the UK ($730 million total in 2017) are driven by the use of wood pellets as biomass for electricity sector.  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 Scandinavia.  Technical barriers with regard to differing standards and certification requirements also make trade difficult.

Leading Sub-Sectors
Best Products/Prospects
  • Natural, wholesome & healthy foods (including gluten-free, meat-free, functional foods)
  • Wine
  • Seafood
  • Fresh fruit & vegetables
  • Dried fruit & nuts
  • Specialty sauces & condiments
  • Snack foods
  • Confectionery
  • Wood pellets
  • Beer (including micro-breweries)
  • Soft Drinks
Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Product Exports to the UK by Value & Calendar Year
($ Millions)
Other Value-Added Wood (including wood for fuel, finished wood products, builders joinery etc)432639841750730
Wine & Beer270237305362265
Tree Nuts (including coconuts, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, pistachios, etc)137171206199211
Distilled Spirits161179231122186
Prepared Food122170159192157
Fresh Fruit & Vegetables1069798147117
Live Animals7391738287
Fish Products13314213010482
Processed Fruit & Vegetables 931121108678
Animal Fats1.41.10.23561
The scale of the U.S. food industry may offer price competitiveness on large volume orders.Competition from EU member states (import duty payable on U.S. products).
The UK climate limits growing seasons and types of products grown.Poultry and red meat imports are highly regulated by the EU; as are dairy product imports from the U.S.
The diversity of the U.S. population creates innovative food products and concepts which are often mirrored in the UK.Must meet strict UK/EU/retailer rules on food safety, traceability, environmental issues and plant inspection.
The U.S. has a good brand image in UK. The U.S. is a popular destination for the UK tourist 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.Need to develop relationship with UK trade contacts and invest in marketing product.
The UK has a core group of experienced importers with a history of sourcing from the U.S.Biotech (GMO) ingredients are not widely available/understood by the UK consumer; supply chain traceability required.
Strong interest in innovative products. Currently there is high interest in 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 mean high chili content.
Web 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 provide a range of services (free-of-charge) 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
Information on FAS global services can be found at FAS Online

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

More Information

United Kingdom Food and Beverage Trade Development and Promotion