Buying British is “back in vogue”

UK’s apparel industry sees strongest growth with big export boom, while food and drink firms also benefit from growing trend to buy British

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Small British brands producing authentic and heritage products are seeing a surge in popularity, according to the Buying British in 2017 report from GS1 UK – the supply chain standards member organisation with over 31,000 members.

The report claims that consumers are increasingly concerned that their food, drink and clothing should reflect their heritage and have fewer air miles. The proportion of GS1’s new members with turnover of £500,000 or less rose from 58% to 78% over the last year, which it says demonstrates a shift towards smaller businesses.

The UK apparel industry saw the strongest growth with 21% of new joiners coming from the sector, swelling their ranks to more than 4,000. Over the last six years there has been a 25% increase in British-made clothing exports, with consumers becoming more aware of controversial sweatshop industries and preferring to buy British.

Food and groceries businesses have also been beneficiaries of the growing trend to buy British with 12% of new GS1 members coming from the sector and accounting for 20% of its UK members in total.

79% of consumers said the provenance of their food was a consideration, while just 20% said they never thought about it and 60% said it was at least as important as factors such as price and quality. 55% said they specifically bought UK brands to support British businesses, citing their “trustworthiness” and that they were “more attuned to needs and tastes”.

The UK is now estimated to have more breweries per capita than any other country, with the number having grown from 140 in 1970 to more than 1,700 today. Meanwhile, the number of gin distilleries has doubled over the last six years and sales have exceeded £1bn for the first time.

Although drinks manufacturers make up less than 1% of GS1 members, in 2016 they accounted for 2% of new joiners, increasing by 41% from 316 to 447 over the last year.

71% of members sold online through their own websites, the most popular sales channel, followed by online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay (67%), wholesale distribution channels (35%) and other retail stores (26%).

Tesco, the largest retailer with 28.1% of market share, gave the most opportunities to new GS1 joiners over the last five years (33%). However, Waitrose – with only 5.3% of the market share – was responsible for the second highest proportion of opportunities (18%).

In November 2016, the Brand Confidence Report found a growing trend to buy British brands with 50% saying they cared about buying from UK businesses.

Gary Lynch, CEO at GS1 UK, said: “Buying British is back in vogue. And it’s the smaller companies that are driving this trend. Brits love an underdog story and this affinity to the unlikely hero isn’t limited to the sporting arena, with shoppers being just as likely to back the small guy at the checkout.

“[…] Heritage, provenance and traceability are no longer nice-to-haves but increasingly important factors that can make the difference between where consumers choose to spend their money. While there will always be some products and services we’re happy to go to major multinationals for, supporting the local start-up is back on the agenda.”

Andrew Cairns, CEO at Mammy Jamia’s, a premium preserves and dressing producer, added: “As the owner of a British company that makes its products here in the UK, I’m delighted to see that buying British is back in vogue. Buying British food and grocery is essential for the sustainability of UK food businesses, food self-sufficiency, jobs and growth.”


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