Optimistic outlook for scotch exports

Scotch whisky exports reached £3.86 billion in customs value last year, according to a Scotch Whisky Association analysis published today (May 17).

Export value was down 2.4% in 2015 (from £3.95bn in 2014), a slowing from last year’s 7% fall, and putting total export value 56% higher than a decade ago.

The association (SWA), published the new report looking at scotch Whisky exports in depth, said that scotch whisky’s prospects for growth remained strong but that exporters continued to face challenging global economic conditions.

The volume of scotch exports was down by 2.8% last year to 1.16 billion bottles (from 1.19bn). That represented 34 bottles of whisky every second being shipped from Scotland.  

Consumer demand for single malt scotch whisky continues to be strong, says the SWA, with shipments up to £916.4 million in 2015 (from £914m). Single malts now account for nearly 25% of the value scotch whisky exports in 2015, up from just 18% five years ago.

Blended scotch whisky remains important, as the biggest category (£2.77bn), accounting for 72% of the global value of exports, and as the trailblazer for scotch into new and emerging markets. 

Exports to some major markets performed well last year, according to the association. The US, the biggest export destination for scotch, remained steady at £749 million, nearly a fifth of all exports. Japan continued its recovery, up 18% to £76m. There was also growth in a number of emerging markets, with Mexico up 17% to £115m, Turkey up 24% to almost £53m and China returning to the top 20 markets with an increase of 5% to £41m.

In the context of the forthcoming EU referendum, the SWA pointed to the fact that around 40% of the volume of scotch shipped globally was exported to the European Union last year, underlining the importance of the single market. The SWA has argued that EU membership is vital to growing scotch whisky exports, with the EU playing a particularly important role in knocking down trade barriers as it negotiates Free Trade.

SWA chief executive, David Frost (pictured) said: “Scotch whisky exports continue to deliver and the fundamentals for future growth are strong. Whilst the last couple of years have been more difficult, the longer-term picture has been one of increased demand, new investment, and premiumisation.

“Challenges remain, with an uncertain global economy and political uncertainty in some export markets. Continued EU membership will also help to support scotch whisky exports to the single market and would leave scotch well placed to benefit from the lower tariffs and fairer market access that the EU has been able to secure through its negotiation of Free Trade Agreements with countries around the world,” said Frost.