The UK’s cheese and wine industries have seen a decade of growth and innovation, with English and Welsh wine now one of the UK’s fastest growing agricultural sectors.
This is according to new Defra figures, which also show the cheese export market is now worth £675 million. Cheese production has grown steadily by seven per cent since 2015 and 465,000 tonnes were produced in 2018 alone.
Cheddar is one of the UK’s top exports, although British Stilton, Caerphilly and Wensleydale continue to be among the most popular cheeses. In the US, cheese imports from the UK are worth £50 million and in China, demand for UK cheese is growing by 20 per cent each year.
AHDB reports that the growing popularity of UK cheese is down to demand for more natural and authentic dairy products.
Figures also show 130 per cent more English and Welsh wine was produced in 2018 compared to 2017, while hectarage planted in Britain has grown by 194 per cent in the past decade.
The industry has also raked in awards including the 2018 International Wine Challenge trophy for Sparkling Winemaker of the Year, which went to producer Nyetimber. It was the first time the award has been granted to a winemaker outside the champagne region.
Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) predicts that wine production will reach around 40 million bottles by 2040, as famed French champagne houses Taittinger and Pommery buy up land in the south of England.
Chairman of WineGB Simon Robinson said: “The UK’s traditional method sparkling wines have been gaining international recognition over many years now, and as our success continues, we anticipate even further growth overseas in the years to come.
“Wine tourism in the UK is flourishing and we are producing some still wines which are earning their place on top wine lists. We are proud of the ongoing success of this industry and are looking to the future with confidence!”
In the past year, total food and drink exports for the UK reached a record £22.5 billion. The ongoing Food is GREAT campaign, led by the government and industry, is aiming to boost exports to £23 billion this year.
Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: “One of the great opportunities of Brexit is the chance to expand exports of our world-renowned food and drink, and the growth of our innovative cheese and wine industries is testament to this.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, we will always champion our fantastic farmers and producers, to ensure their produce continues to be enjoyed not only at special events such as New Year’s Eve – but all year round”.