How the UK ‘ginnaissance’ has created a thirst for our gin brands overseas

Paul Stowers, Head of Region, North West, at the Department for International Trade (DIT), explains how North West distillers can make the most of the spike in demand for British craft gin overseas.

The UK’s gin industry is booming and alongside a so-called ‘ginnaissance’ at home has come a real thirst for our gin overseas.

According to the latest statistics from HMRC, UK gin exports totalled more than £612 million in 2018 – up 15% on the year before. To put this into perspective, the UK now sells almost 25% more gin overseas than it does beer (HMRC).

As the international gin market grows, new distilleries across the country are making exporting a key part of their business strategy.

To help businesses navigate the export process, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) are offering a wealth of support to help British distillers who are keen to explore new opportunities abroad through the Food is GREAT campaign.

The North West is well positioned to make the most of international demand, with our region boasting innovative craft gin distilleries stretching from the Peak District to the Cumbrian coast.

One local distiller taking advantage of the global demand for our gin is Burnley’s Batch Brew. The company recently broke into the North American market after securing two new export deals with a spirits distributor in the US and SAQ, the government-owned alcohol retailer of Quebec, in Canada.

As a result of these deals, coupled with growing demand for British gin overseas, the company is expecting to see its export sales grow from 12.5% to 20% of its total turnover by November this year. The business has also started selling to partners in Italy and China.

As the UK’s domestic gin market becomes increasingly competitive, exporting can not only help local distilleries like Batch Brew increase their resilience but also boost their profitability as they access new marketplaces abroad.

However, alongside the benefits can be some challenges that distillers looking to start or grow their exports must consider.

One major factor that producers must navigate is alcohol regulation, with overseas markets often setting out specific requirements around factors such as labelling and packaging, which can differ from those in the UK.

For example, gin sold in China – where UK gin exports have doubled between 2017 and 2018 – must include specific details on the label such as the name and address of the product’s Chinese distributor in Simplified Chinese. Under Chinese law, documentation must be provided to the relevant Chinese inspection authorities to support any claims included on labels, such as award wins, before it can be sold in China.

These barriers, along with considerations such as finding trusted logistics providers and navigating foreign tax systems, can all be addressed with the right planning, insight and guidance.

This includes one-to-one support through DIT’s network of International Trade Advisers, who can help with issues such as legislation, translations and tax. DIT offers local businesses opportunities to meet new partners through meet-the-buyer events in the UK, and also organises trade missions to key overseas markets.

I’m encouraging all businesses looking for support to give our team a call on 0333 320 0392 or emailinfo@tradenw.org.

Businesses can also visit great.gov.uk, which has thousands of live export opportunities currently listed and includes general information on exporting and events.

With overseas demand for our gin only set to grow, North West distillers keen to take a wedge of this market shouldn’t put their export plans on ice.