Chocolate is the fastest growing UK food export driven by a rise in sales to the Middle East and Africa and factory expansion by Nestlé, according to a report from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
Chocolate exports from the UK in 2012 were up 19.3% from last year to £524m.
Total UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports stood at £12.1bn, meaning chocolate accounts for 4.3% of UK exports in the sector.
Most of the chocolate - worth £148m - goes to nearby Ireland, up 15.4%, but a rising amount is destined for Germany, the Netherlands and France.
The United Arab Emirates also upped its imports of UK-produced chocolate by 69%, while Australia increased its stock by 44%. South Africa has also doubled the amount of chocolate it imports from the UK.
Nestlé chocolate exports
Nestlé is in part responsible for the rise in chocolate exports. Over the last five years, its York site, one of the largest confectionery factories in the world, has benefitted from an investment of £50 million.
Over 20% of the site’s annual confectionery production is exported, mainly to Germany, Italy and Canada.
Over the last six years, around 27% of York Kit Kat production has been sold outside the UK.
“In addition there is a small but important and growing business in markets such as Pakistan, Latin America and the Far East,” said Nestlé in a case study by the FDF.
Smaller firms exporting
Smaller companies are also driving growth in UK chocolate exports.
Chokolit, rebranded ‘Louis Barnett Chocolates', was founded in 2006 and now sells in Australia, Mexico, and Poland.
The premium chocolate company reports interest from Qatar, Dubai, Kuwait, Norway, Switzerland and Chile and plans to open a new office in May in California to deal with US and Latin American enquiries.
The young entrepreneur behind the business, Louis Barnett, said: "Our export markets have been increasing rapidly and we definitely see it as a fundamental part of our business activity for 2013 and will be crucial to our business growth. We are increasing our customers and countries, and are always looking for new markets in which our truly innovative and exciting brand can flourish.”
Sugar confectionery exports up 6%
Exports of UK-made sugar confectionery also grew 6% to £172m in 2012. Ireland again is the most likely destination, but exports to Canada were up 45.6% to £8m.
Saudi Arabia had the highest growth in UK sugar confectionery imports, up 213% on last year. Exports to the US meanwhile fell 9.1% to £10m.