Soaring demand from central Europe has helped UK food and drink exports post record figures for the third year running, according to the latest FDF figures.

UK food and soft drink delivered strong export growth last year, rising 19.6% to £9.23bn, and hit £13.6bn including alcohol.

Central Europe was one of the "standout" regions and represented some of the fastest-growing opportunities for British products, said report author and market research manager of Leatherhead Food International, Chris Brockman.

Bulgaria was the fastest-growing export market for food and non-alcoholic drinks, soaring 160.6% to £5.5m, while Hungary followed with a 74.3% increase to £40.2m. Ireland and France were the biggest export markets at £2.45bn and £1.14bn respectively. Chocolate was the largest export category at £360.7m, closely followed by breakfast cereals at £352.9m.

Meat and animal products had made a promising recovery after the lifting of foot and mouth-related export restrictions, soaring 38.3% to £1.23bn. Total lamb and beef exports rose 43.9% and 69.3% respectively to £475m.

However, Brockman ­cautioned: "Exchange rates have clearly swung round in the favour of UK exporters, but the weakening of global markets means that competing on the international stage remains a challenge."