Department for International Trade
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Asia’s newfound love for British cheese

UK cheesemakers have been met with spiralling demand over the past five years from emerging markets across Asia, according to the latest HMRC data.

Britain boasts one of the most successful cheese markets in the world, producing over 700 varieties. Now, as we celebrate National Cheese Day (Tuesday 4 June), we can also celebrate an accelerated demand from across Asia.

Cheese exports reached a record £665 million in 2018, placing the UK within the top 10 biggest exporters of cheese worldwide.

Historically, the European Union has always been the top destination for British cheese, with the Republic of Ireland consuming more than any other country.

More recently, however, demand from Asian economies has grown at an unparalleled pace. British cheese exports to the region grew by 289.3% over the past 5 years compared to just 39.4% to the EU.

The fastest growing export market is China, where demand increased from £67,000 in 2013 to £6.5 million in 2018.

It’s a similar story 3,500km southwards in Malaysia, with exports climbing from £103,000 to £4.7 million.

7 of the top 10 fastest growing exports markets for British cheese over the past five years were from countries in Asia:

Country 2013 Export Value 2018 Export Value Growth (%)
China £67k £6.5m 9567
Lithuania £16k £1.2m 7276
Malaysia £103k £4.7m 4492
Jordan £70k £1.6m 2233
Egypt £123k £1.9m 1483
Romania £157k £2.4m 1462
Thailand £136k £1.7m 1163
Bahrain £161k £1.6m 875
Lebanon £1.3m £9.0 566
Taiwan £206k £1.3m 557

Outside of the EU, the US was the biggest contributor to the increase in exports of UK cheese over the past five years, increasing by £10.3 million to £50.0 million in 2018. Lebanon was the second largest contributor, with exports to the region increasing by £7.6 million in five years to £9.0 million in 2018.

The appeal of British cheese is truly global, with 47 countries worldwide now importing over £1 million worth of produce.

Cheddar is by far the UK’s most popular cheese export, accounting for nearly half of the market (48.1%) and worth £319.7 million in 2018. Fresh cheese, such as British Mozzarella-style products followed behind in terms of popularity.

Secretary of State for International Trade & President of the Board of Trade, The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP said:

British Cheddar dates back over 800 years and continues to be one of the most consumed cheeses in the world.

Latest HMRC data showing the soaring demand for British cheese across Asian economies serves as evidence of the truly global appeal of British produce and growing ambitions amongst UK cheese exporters to break into prosperous markets which will be at the forefront of the world stage in years to come.

My international economic department is keen to ensure UK businesses continue to operate in these markets with unparalleled success and stands ready to help businesses of all sizes seeking expansion overseas.

One business tapping into overseas demand for UK cheese is Snowdonia Cheese Company who were founded in North Wales in 2001 by a group of dairy farmers.

A spokesperson from Snowdonia Cheese Company, said:

Over the last seven years, we’ve expanded our business into international markets including Canada, US, Europe, Australia and Asia. These markets in particular seem to have a real affinity with British products and consumers and investors have been extremely warm and welcoming to us - it’s helped to grow the business significantly.

In Asia we have established business in Singapore and Hong Kong where we work with local distributors. They are selling our products into the foodservice and retail sectors. We have recently been involved with tradeshows in Hong Kong and Singapore, events supported by the Department for International Trade.

Case Study – Snowdonia Cheese Company

Snowdonia Cheese Company was founded in North Wales in 2001 by a group of dairy farmers. Our vision was simple, we wanted to create a range of premium cheese that used only the finest ingredients and is nurtured to perfection with expertise and care. Each truckle blends mouth-watering flavours and textures to create the flavoursome and characterful family of multi-award winning cheeses that Snowdonia is now renowned for.

Where Cheddars are concerned, Black Bomber is a modern classic. Its success has been phenomenal, even in the early days of Snowdonia it was an instant hit. Just this year it was voted the number one cheese brand by the prestigious Fine Food Digest for the fourth time in five years, so the awards keep rolling in and we never take them for granted. We work hard to ensure all of our products are crafted with care so it’s great to see them getting such recognition from industry experts.

Latest Export data

  • Latest statistics from the ONS show UK firms sold more overseas in the 2018/19 financial year, £639.9 billion, than at any time since records began.
  • The UK has now achieved 36 consecutive months of export growth on an annual rolling basis.
  • Separate OECD data shows UK exports grew faster than Germany, France and Italy between 2016 and 2018.

Department for International Trade

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