U.K. Brand May Not Be Enough to Woo Food Importers Post Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Iconic British images such as London’s red buses may be known the world over, but a low awareness of U.K. food could make it difficult for the country to crack new export markets once it leaves the European Union.

In a survey conducted across nine countries including Canada, China and India, 34 percent of consumers had never bought British food products, the U.K.’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board said in a report. Forty-three percent didn’t have any specific associations with British food and only a fifth had a positive perception of it.

U.K. Brand May Not Be Enough to Woo Food Importers Post Brexit

“Britain has a great story to tell, with the Union flag, Big Ben and the London bus well recognized across the world,” said Christine Watts, chief communications and market development officer at the AHDB. “But while these iconic images can form part of a powerful brand for the promotion of inbound tourism, they are not enough to sell our food and farming products overseas.”

The findings come at crucial time for Britain’s food and drink industry, whose exports totaled more than $18 billion in 2015. There’s uncertainty over what trade deals the U.K. will have with nations inside and outside of the EU post Brexit, while farmers and manufacturers are also worried about access to overseas labor, potential border delays and increased paperwork and costs.

Still, 37 percent of respondents in the survey indicated they’d pay a premium for British food. About 4,500 consumers were surveyed in countries in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“The product fit and resonance with consumer shopping habits is vital -- marking a product as British and remaining hopeful it will suffice in converting shoppers is high risk,” the AHDB said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.