Scotch Whisky exports return to growth
28 Apr 2017
Optimistic outlook for Scotch, but uncertainties around
Scotch exports increased last year by 4% to more than £4
billion, with the value of Single Malts exceeding £1bn for the
first time. This success marks a return to growth for Scotch
exports, following a few years of levelling off and small declines
as a result of economic headwinds and political uncertainty in some
Last year, Scotch remained the biggest net contributor to the
UK's balance of trade in goods. In 2016, without the impact of
Scotch Whisky, the UK trade in goods deficit would have been 2.8%
larger at almost £139bn. Scotch Whisky accounts for over a fifth of
the UK's total food and drink exports.
Scotch also continues to lead the way for the rest of Scotland's
food and drink sector. The 'national drink' makes up 73% of total
Scottish food and drink exports.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has analysed the reasons for
the resurgence of exports and the outlook for the future.
While the industry is optimistic about renewed demand for
Scotch, there are challenges as well as opportunities on the
horizon, including the seismic changes that Brexit brings to an
increasingly competitive global marketplace. The weakness of
sterling, for example, had a significant impact on exports in the
second half of last year. This short-term positive currency impact
should be seen in the context of continuing uncertainties around
Brexit in the longer term.
Scotch Whisky exports - key facts
- Up 4% in customs value on 2015 to £4,008,927,149 - worth £127
- Volume up almost 5% to more than 1.2 billion bottles - almost
39 bottles exported every second
- Single Malt Scotch exports worth more than £1bn for the first
time - up almost 12% to £1.02bn. This is the equivalent of 113m
bottles shipped overseas
- Scotch was directly exported to 182 countries, up from 174 -
showing its truly global nature
What categories of Scotch Whisky are growing?
All categories of Scotch Whisky grew last year, but Bottled
Blended Scotch Whisky is still by far the biggest. It accounted for
69% of all Scotch volumes and values exported in 2016. Bottled
Blended Scotch has traditionally been the largest category of
Scotch and last year value increased for the first time since 2012
by 1.4% to £2.75bn.
Single Malt was a stand-out performer last year. With Single
Malt exports growing at a faster rate than that of Scotch overall,
market share is increasing. It now makes up just over a quarter of
the total value of Scotch exports.
Scotch Whisky is popular across the globe and demand is from a
diverse range of markets. In terms of regions, the European Union
remains the top destination for exports, worth around £1.2bn of the
total. North America is the second largest, taking exports worth
more than £1bn, followed by Asia with shipments of £768m.
The USA remains the number one market by value, growing 14% to
reach £865m. Consumers are seeking out premium products and Single
Malts benefited from such trends - value was up 22% to £267m.
There was increased demand from a number of larger European
markets, including Spain, the fourth biggest market, up almost 10%
to £167m; Germany, the number five market, up 13% to £164m and
Poland, up 19% to £63m. This reflects some improved economic
performance and continued growing popularity of Scotch across parts
India is becoming increasingly significant with value of exports
up almost 14% to £97m to make it the ninth biggest market for
Scotch. But its full potential will not be realised until its 150%
import tariff is reduced. The SWA is encouraging the UK
Government to pursue a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), including
measures to cut the tariff, with India as priority after
Brexit. Exports to China increased 0.5% to £41m with the market
continuing on an upward trend following some decline due to
austerity and political decisions.
We are also calling on the Government to secure existing EU
trade deal benefits, such as the South Korea FTA and the
Colombia/Peru agreement that have created a more level playing
field for Scotch in those markets. Some £87m of Scotch was exported
to Korea last year and Colombia grew 14% to £27m
This is an uncertain time for all business with a UK General
Election on 8 June and Brexit negotiations getting underway. While
we expect demand for Scotch Whisky to grow in markets around the
globe, we need support from governments at home and abroad. The
industry's continued success cannot be taken for granted by
government and policy makers.
The Scotch Whisky industry was, for example, disappointed by the
near 4% increase on spirits duty excise announced in the spring UK
Budget and is calling for fairer treatment in future fiscal
statements. The SWA would like to see an overhaul of the domestic
excise system when the UK leaves the EU.
The industry has set out five key objectives for Brexit:
- As open a trade policy as possible, securing existing EU trade
deal benefits and developing an ambitious agenda of new and
- Robust legal protection of Scotch Whisky in the UK, EU and
- Business certainty and consistency by transposing EU single
market legislation of relevance to Scotch Whisky into UK law.
- Scoping out opportunities where a distinct UK approach could
benefit domestic industry
- A domestic tax and regulatory agenda that delivers a platform
for international growth.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief
executive, said: "With Scotch Whisky exports returning to growth
and rising to more than £4 billion, and Single Malts exceeding £1bn
for the first time, we're feeling optimistic about the future.
Demand is rising in mature markets, such as the USA, and newer
markets, including China. This confidence is reflected in the
number of new distilleries - 14 have been opened in the last few
years and we know of about another 40 in at various stages of
"However, we have to be alert to the challenges, as well as the
opportunities, of Brexit and political changes in the UK and across
the globe. Industry success can't be taken for granted and we
need both the UK and Scottish Governments to work in partnership
with us to deliver a business environment - at home and overseas -
that supports sustainable growth. At home, for example, we
are calling for a 'sector deal' for Scotch as the new UK industrial
strategy develops, recognising our economic significance to
communities across the country. And we have clearly set out our
objectives for Brexit to support jobs and growth in the industry in
an increasingly competitive global market."
A fuller analysis of 2016 export figures can be viewed or
With media enquiries and to request interviews, please contact:
Rosemary Gallagher, SWA head of communications, 0131 222 9230 or
07432 605 385 or email@example.com