France is now the top European destination for Scottish food and drink exports.

The total value of Scottish food and drink exports to France was £733 million in 2014, up 4.4% on the previous year and an increase of 58% since 2007. The rise makes France the top European destination for Scottish food and drink exports and Scotland’s second largest food and drink exports market in the world, behind only the United States.

France’s increasing appetite is strongly supported by a growing taste for Scotch whisky in the wine-loving nation, with exports of the iconic drink across The Channel also rising by over 50% since 2007.

Valued at £445 million in 2014 – a rise of 2.5% on the previous year and 51% since 2007 – Scotch whisky accounted for 61% of total Scottish food and drink exports to France in 2014.

Speaking from Paris, where tonight she will host a trade and investment reception including Scottish food and drink produce as part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, the country’s external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We’ve seen the value of Scottish food and drinks exports to France increase significantly in recent years, underlining the growing importance our friends across The Channel place on sourcing authentic produce from Scotland’s rich and natural larder. This is a real compliment from the nation widely recognised as the world’s culinary epicentre.

“These figures show that in addition to their renowned love of great wine – the French have also developed a growing taste for Scotch whisky and a healthy appetite for our premium salmon and seafood.

“Further increasing our food and drink offering in France is a major priority for the Scottish Government. We have identified France as a top prospect market within our national export plan, and our in-market Scottish food and drink specialist, Cameron Sutherland, who works in Paris, is working hard with the Scottish Government and its agencies to further strengthen the growth we’ve seen in recent years.

“Ensuring Scottish exporters remain within the Single Market is essential to this. Continuing Scotland’s EU membership not only guarantees that place, but gives Scotland a voice in setting the rules governing that market. Protecting the strategic position of Scottish exporters is just one of the many reasons why the Scottish Government will continue to make the positive case for our EU membership.”