Growth in chocolate and sugar confectionery exports to France in 2004, established the country's position as the second most valuable export market in Europe for UK companies behind Ireland, according to a Food From Britain (FFB) report.
France is a bright spot in the UK confectionery export market. UK confectionery exports were down six per cent in 2004 with the largest declines occurring in the Netherlands and the US markets.
Chocolate confectionery exports have now declined for the fourth year in a row as producers increasingly consolidate UK operations and turn to manufacturing options overseas.
However chocolate exports to France grew by 16.9 per cent, and sugar confectionary sales by 100 per cent from the previous year.
The UK is the driving force behind a growing European confectionery market, the FFB says. British companies made £3.9 billion worth of chocolate and £1.5 billion of sugar confectionery in 2004.
The companies exported £264.4 million of chocolate confectionery in 2004, of which £88.7 million went to France.
They also exported £162.4 million worth of sugar confectionery, of which £8.2 million went to France, double that of the previous year.
The increases in sales to French help offset the decline in world exports of two per cent in overall confectionery exports. French sales increase despite a ban on all vending machines in schools as the country tries to tackle rising obesity.
The main sector of growth in the French market is chewing gum, which increased 230 per cent to £3.9 million.
FFB spokesperson Chris Brockman told ConfectioneryNews.com that the gum exports were building from a low base.
The overall European chocolate confectionery market was worth £19 billion in 2004, an increase in value of 17 per cent from 2000, FFB stated.
The sugar confectionery market is worth £8 billion, a gain of 1.8 per cent over the same period.
The global chocolate confectionery market is worth £33 billion. The sugar confectionery market is worth £20 billion, with both categories growing by about 13 per cent since 2000.
In Europe, the top five producing countries hold 69 per cent of the chocolate confectionery market. The top five account for 58 per cent of the total sugar confectionery market.
Total British food and drink exports to the EU were worth £3.06 billion the first half of 2005 alone up 3.6 per cent on the same period of 2004 and exports to France continue to rank second largest worth £561 million.
The UK is Europe's leading producer of confectionary.
In recent years more and more UK confectioners have moved production facilities abroad in order to reduce costs and be closer to their markets.
The lack of skills in the UK's workforce has been a major factor in the moves according to Improve, a government food industry training agency.
About 19 per cent of the sector's workforce has no qualifications, compared to the average of 11 per cent for the total UK workforce, Improve says. One third of staff in the processing sector have no qualifications at all.