LONDON: There has been a surge in the number of small businesses that produce authentic British products as consumers attach greater importance to heritage, provenance and traceability, a new industry study has revealed.

According to the Buying British in 2017 report by GS1 UK, a not-for-profit trading standards body, specialist firms have witnessed rapid growth in recent years.

GS1 UK surveyed its 31,000 members and found that 78% of new members in 2016 had a turnover of £500,000 or less, compared with 58% of all members in 2015.

The organisation said this demonstrated a "strong shift towards smaller businesses" as consumers increasingly want their food, drink and clothing to "demonstrate their local heritage and have fewer air miles".

Looking at its new members in more detail, GS1 UK reported that a fifth (21%) came from the apparel sector and that a "Made in Britain" tag has become more important to consumers.

After various reports about conditions in foreign sweatshops, it seems consumers around the world are paying more attention to "Made in" labels because British clothing exports have risen 25% since 2011.

Food and groceries accounted for 20% of GS1 UK's membership, but it was also one of the fastest-growing with 12% of new members coming from the sector.

With craft beer gaining popularity, the study further revealed a huge increase in the number of brewers based in the UK. Their number has swelled from just 140 in 1970 to more than 1,700 and it means the UK now has more breweries per capita than any other country.

The number of gin distilleries has also grown rapidly, doubling in six years to reach sales of more than £1bn for the first time.

GS1 UK also asked its members about their favoured channels for selling their products. The majority (71%) said they use their own websites or online marketplaces (67%), such as Amazon or eBay, while a third (35%) use wholesale distribution channels and a quarter (26%) use other retail stores.

"Buying British is back in vogue. And it's the smaller companies that are driving this trend," said Gary Lynch, CEO at GS1 UK. "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," he added.

"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."

Data sourced from GS1 UK; additional content by Warc staff