What are the top markets for UK manufacturing businesses to export to?

If you're a manufacturing business looking to grow sales through exports, then this is a quick overview of the markets most likely to be easier to access.


Starting your export journey'

Identifying countries that already import high volumes of British goods is easy. Trade statistics websites and market research reports provide valuable data on import values and product categories. These countries already importing significant quantities of British goods might be your ideal springboard for export success.


Top Importers of UK Manufactured Goods by Value per Annum


Rank Country Estimated Value of Imports (£ billion)
1 US 57.2

Typical Goods: Machinery, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, food and beverages, chemicals.

Reasons: Large developed economy, existing trade agreement with UK, strong demand for high-quality and innovative products.

2 Germany 32.5

Typical Goods: Machinery, electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, vehicles.

Reasons: Leading industrial nation with strong demand for specialised and advanced manufactured goods, well-developed infrastructure and close trade ties with UK.

3 Netherlands 28.1

Typical Goods: Chemicals, machinery, pharmaceuticals, mineral fuels, vehicles.

Reasons: Strategic location serving as a gateway to Europe, efficient logistics and customs infrastructure, attractive business environment for multinational corporations.

4 China 23.4

Typical Goods: Machinery, electrical equipment, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages.

Reasons: Growing middle class with increasing disposable income, strong demand for high-tech and innovative products, potential for long-term partnerships and market access.

5 Ireland 18.3

Typical Goods: Machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, mineral fuels.

Reasons: Close geographical proximity and strong trade ties with UK, large presence of multinational corporations using Ireland as a European base.

6 Switzerland 15.7

Typical Goods: Pharmaceuticals, machinery, chemicals, watches and clocks, musical instruments.

Reasons: High-income economy with strong demand for specialised and luxury goods, well-developed infrastructure and stable market conditions.

7 France 14.5

Typical Goods: Machinery, vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages.

Reasons: Close geographical proximity and strong trade ties with UK, large domestic market and consumer spending, established trade agreements.

8 Japan 13.2

Typical Goods: Machinery, electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment.

Reasons: Advanced and tech-savvy population with high demand for quality and precision engineering products, established trade relationship with UK, cultural similarities.

9 Norway 12.9

Typical Goods: Machinery, electrical equipment, mineral fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals.

Reasons: High income per capita and strong demand for imported goods, advanced and resource-rich economy, stable market conditions.

10 Belgium 12.1

Typical Goods: Chemicals, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages.

Reasons: Strategic location at the heart of European trade network, well-developed infrastructure and logistics, hub for multinational corporations.


Why is this a great place to start your research and due diligence'

Trade agreements and tariffs play a significant role in shaping export patterns. Reduced tariffs on certain goods within a country can make them more competitive - thus increasing their import volume. The specific mix of imported goods often reflects the importing country's economic needs and strengths. Countries with strong industrial sectors might import specialised machinery and equipment, while those with high disposable income might import luxury goods and pharmaceuticals. Knowing your own industry or product type can help narrow down the relevant import markets and potential reasons for their demand.


Here's an overview of why:

1. Pre-existing Demand and Familiarity: These countries have already established a taste for your products, proving there's an existing market and demand for the "Made in Britain" quality. This translates to lower marketing costs and quicker brand recognition compared to entirely new markets.

2. Established Trade Relationships and Logistics: Existing trade channels and well-developed logistics networks make it easier to navigate import processes and reach your customers efficiently. This reduces logistical hurdles and minimises delays, ensuring a smooth flow of goods.

3. Cultural and Regulatory Familiarity: Understanding cultural nuances and navigating regulations can be time-consuming and complex. By targeting existing importers, you benefit from their knowledge and experience, reducing the risk of cultural faux pas or regulatory roadblocks.

4. Potential for Deeper Partnerships: Existing importers are familiar with your brand and products, making them open to deeper collaborations. This could involve joint ventures, product customisation or even exclusive distribution partnerships, accelerating your market penetration.

5. Leverage Market Insights: These existing importers possess valuable insights into consumer preferences, trends and local competition within your product category. Leveraging their expertise can help you tailor your offerings and marketing strategies for maximum impact.


First steps....

Consult trade bodies, export specialists and market research reports to gain deeper insights and identify the best fit for your specific business. Your local Chamber of Commerce is usually a good starting point, but if you know what you want exporting to where, even if you haven't got any orders yet - get in touch, and we can help you understand the steps involved.

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