Asia’s newfound love for British cheese

Export | Food & Drink | National

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.

Cheese exports reached a record £665m 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 five 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 £6.5m in 2018.

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

Seven 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 £9m 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 £10.3m to £50m in 2018. Lebanon was the second largest contributor, with exports to the region increasing by £7.6m in five years to £9m in 2018.

The appeal of British cheese is truly global, with 47 countries worldwide now importing over £1m 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 £319.7m 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.”

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