UK Alcohol Imports

Alcohol Imports in the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the world's largest importers of alcoholic beverages. Its geographic location and historic ties to major wine producing regions like France, Spain and Portugal contribute to the UK's status as a leading alcohol importer. Several factors drive the demand for imported alcohol in the UK market.

Growth of the Hospitality Industry

A steady growth in tourism, rising household incomes, and an expanding food service industry are fueling higher demand for imported wines, beers and spirits in the UK. The UK's restaurant, pub and bar sector has grown rapidly in recent years. There are over 53,000 pubs and 7,000 bars across the UK, which rely heavily on imported alcohol to meet consumer demand. The rise of craft cocktails has also led to greater imports of premium spirits into the UK.

Changing Consumer Tastes

Shifting consumer preferences are influencing the type of imported alcohol products brought into the UK. Wine is the most popular alcoholic drink in the UK, with over 30 million people drinking wine regularly. Historically UK consumers drank wine from Europe, but growing interest in New World wines from countries like Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina has led to rising imports from these regions. Premium and super-premium wine sales are also rising strongly as consumer seek better quality wines.

Surging Popularity of Imported Beers

Imported beers are gaining share in the UK market. While traditional British beer brands like Carling, Fosters and Stella Artois still dominate, imports like Heineken, Budweiser, Becks and Peroni have made major inroads. The growth of World lagers and craft beers from overseas has introduced UK consumers to innovative brews and flavors. Imported beer sales rose over 7% in 2018, as consumers seek more choices beyond domestic beers.

Demand for Premium Spirits

Vodka, gin, tequila, rum and whisky are among the most imported spirits into the UK. Changing tastes, rise of cocktails and income growth has boosted appetite for premium imported spirits. American whiskey brands like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam have gained popularity in the UK. Vodka imports from Russia and Poland have risen, while rum imports from Jamaica, Cuba and Guatemala have grown as UK consumers explore different spirits.

Duty-Free Shopping

UK's airports have extensive duty-free shops that allow travelers to purchase alcohol at lower tax rates. Major airports like Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester serve as channels for travelers to buy imported alcohol like Scotch whisky, cognac, champagne and wines to take home. Duty-free sales of products like Grey Goose vodka, Glenfiddich whiskey and Hendricks gin boost overall imports into the UK through the travel retail sector.

Lower Import Duties

Preferential trade agreements between the EU and other countries have led to reduced import duties on alcohol for the UK market. Wines from countries like Australia, Chile and New Zealand attract zero or very low customs duties, which makes them price competitive against domestic wines. Lower tariffs also apply for spirits imported into UK from Mexico, South Africa and Cote d'Ivoire. Overall, reduced import duties have facilitated greater inflows of foreign alcohol into the UK.

E-Commerce Growth

The growth in e-commerce has enabled easier access to imported alcohol brands for UK consumers. Online retailers offering imported wines, beers and spirits have expanded rapidly. Consumer adoption of services like online auctions, subscriptions and recommendations from overseas vendors has simplified the process of importing alcohol for personal consumption. Small business importing niche, hand-crafted alcohol brands have also benefited.

Impact of Brexit

The UK's exit from the European Union in 2020 has started impacting alcohol imports. New customs procedures, regulatory paperwork and delays at borders have increased costs for importers. However, the 25% import duties on wines imposed by the EU were not applied by the UK in 2021. This kept wine prices stable temporarily. In the long run, trade deals with non-EU countries could potentially increase UK's alcohol imports from nations like Australia. But importers face continued uncertainty from ongoing Brexit trade negotiations.

Key Import Partners

France: The UK imports the most wines from France. Over 26% of UK wine imports worth $1.5 billion came from France in 2020. Brandy and cognac imports from France were also over $600 million.

USA: Bourbon whiskey, craft beers and tequila imports from the US were over $450 million in 2020. The US is the fourth largest source of imported alcohol in the UK.

Australia: Wine imports from Australia were $363 million in 2020. Australia accounts for 20% value share in imported wines in the UK. Beer imports are also rising.

Spain: Spain exports over $300 million worth of wines and beers to the UK annually. Cava, Rioja and sherry are popular imported Spanish alcoholic drinks.

Italy: Prosecco, pinot grigio and other Italian wine make up over 15% of the UK’s wine imports. Vermouth and Campari imports from Italy are also significant.

Future Outlook

Imported alcohol looks set to continue growing in the UK market. However, rising inflation, potential new taxes on alcohol, supply chain issues, and consumer shift to low alcohol options could hamper growth. But overall, increasing consumer spending, demand for premium categories, e-commerce expansion and favorable trade pacts will support future growth of imported alcohol in the UK.


  • Certificate of Origin
  • Bill of Lading
  • Packing List
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Customs Clearance