The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe, after Germany and France. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account for the largest proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while manufacturing continues to decline in importance. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized and efficient by European standards but, in terms of gross added value, represents less than 1 percent of GDP. While UK agriculture produces about 60 percent of the country’s food needs with less than 2 percent of the labor force, the UK is heavily reliant on imports to meet the varied demands of the UK consumer who also expect year round availability of all food products.
The UK has strong social and cultural ties to the United States, demonstrated by the similarities in consumer trends in the retail and food service markets. The UK presents strong market opportunities for many U.S. consumer-orientated products, including specialty food products, “healthy” food items, wine, sauces, fruit, nuts and juices. “Health” and convenience foods are main driving forces in the UK value-added food and beverage market. Consumers in this wealthy country are looking for variety in high quality food products, especially those perceived to have health benefits.
United States agricultural, fish, and forestry exports to the UK reached $2.94 billion in 2018. Consumer-oriented food and beverage products remain the most important UK market sector for U.S. agriculture, amounting to $1.03 billion. Wood pellet exports for renewable energy remains strong, driving U.S. forest product exports to the UK to $846.8 million in 2018. Demand for U.S consumer-oriented food products continues to differentiate the UK from many of its European neighbors. The UK is the 11th largest market in the world for U.S. consumer-orientated products. Within this category it is worth noting that U.S. exports of fresh vegetables, chocolate and cocoa products, and condiments and sauces to the UK all set records in 2018.