The UK Department for International Trade has released figures that show UK exports reached £639.9bn for the year ending 2019, an increase of 3.1% compared with the previous year.

Demand for British soft drinks, wine and spirits has seen exports double in the last 15 years. Drinks exports grew by 7% to £8.3bn over the reporting period while goods exports increased by 3.5% to £353.2bn.

The UK had a £1.6bn drinks trade surplus; without this, the trade deficit would have been 26.1% higher.

There was an increase of 23% above the 12-monthly average for drinks drink exports in October and November mainly down to consumers buying Scotch whisky and gin for the Christmas period.

Of all British drinks exports, 63.4% were exported to non-EU countries; exports to India grew by 49.2% to £179m and exports to Japan grew by 23.7% to £188m. The US is still the biggest customer for the UK with drink exports growing by 3.9% to £1.8bn.

Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox said: “Today’s figures show that despite the challenging global economic environment, people across the world are continuing to demand high-quality British exports.

“The UK’s drink industry has global appeal and it’s fantastic to see the sector continue to deliver real tangible economic benefits for the UK. My international economic department stands ready to help businesses of all sizes achieve their exporting ambitions.”

The increase in UK exports follows the launch of the Export Strategy in 2018 with the UK wanting to increase its exports as a percentage of UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 35%, making the country one of the world’s most successful exporters.

Scotch Whisky Association international director Sarah Dickson said: “We should be proud that Scotland’s national drink is the world’s premier whisky, enjoyed by millions around the globe.

“Consumers in key global markets are looking for products with a strong story, and with Scotch whisky, they can discover a spirit with an unrivalled reputation for quality, authenticity and provenance.”

Spirit of Harrogate co-founder Mike Carthy said: “We’re very proud that British gins are being so well received across the world.

“The response from international buyers has been extremely positive, and we look forward to opening up in new markets and developing our brand further afield so that more people can enjoy our award-winning products.”