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Global Scotch whisky exports at record high

Global Scotch whisky exports hit a record in 2012 and now account for around 80% of Scotland's total food and drink foreign trade.

The value of exports last year reached £4.27bn – amounting to more than £11m in foreign sales daily. The foreign whisky trade has now grown for eight consecutive years – rising 87% in the last decade - and is now responsible for a quarter of UK total food and drink exports.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), exports have been boosted by emerging markets and a return of confidence in countries with an established taste for the liquor.

Although overall sales only increased by 1% globally last year amid ongoing economic uncertainty, single malts and premium blends increased as standard bottle sales struggled. Single malt now accounts for more than 18% of total whisky export sales and stand at £778m, up from £268m a decade ago.

SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt says: "Scotch whisky continues to lead the way for UK food and drink exports. A combination of successful trade negotiations, excellent marketing by producers, growing demand from mature markets, particularly the USA, and the growing middle class in emerging economies helped exports hit a record £4.3bn last year. We are contributing massively to the government's wish for an export-led recovery."

France remains the biggest market by volume of standard 40% alcohol bottles, with 153.9 million 700ml bottles sold. Meanwhile, the US remains the biggest market by value, with sales breaking through the £700m barrier for the first time to reach a total of £778m. However, on a per capita basis, the US only ranks 10th on global consumption.

Distribution hub Singapore is ranked first per capita followed by France, Spain, Australia and Venezuela. Other keen whisky drinkers included Germany, South Africa and South Korea, along with Thailand, Mexico and Brazil.

Although exports to mainland China increased 8% in 2012 it remains a minor market with 22.9 million 700ml bottles sold.  With a population of 1.35 billion its whisky volume consumption is virtually identical to offshore Taiwan, which only has a population of 23 million people. Producers plan to ramp up further production as the number of whisky drinkers rises in Asia and the Americas.

"There is confidence in the future of the industry, illustrated by the £2bn capital investment that Scotch whisky producers have committed over the next three to four years," says Hewitt. "New distilleries have opened and older ones brought back to use to meet rising demand."


4 April 2013 - Felicity Murray