Hawkshead Relish : How to make the most of overseas markets
The move to sell overseas can be a daunting step for business. GILES BROWN of In-Cumbria gets some advice on how to get a passport to export.
Kindly reproduced with permission In-Cumbria Magazine
There are many advantages to running a food and drink business in Cumbria. High quality ingredients are farmed on the doorstep, the Lake District “brand” chimes with consumers and millions of tourists visit the country every year keen to try the local goods. However, many businesses are setting their sights beyond the UK’s shores to cash in on the hunger and thirst for British produce overseas.
Picture courtesy of CN GroupOne of Cumbria’s most experienced exporters is the Hawkshead Relish Company, which has sold its products to more than 30 countries across the world over the last 10 years. However, the decision to begin exporting came almost by accident when a visiting customer asked if they could take some of their products to sell at his gourmet food store Chelsea Market Baskets in New York.
“It wasn’t particularly on our agenda as something we were looking to do,” said director Maria Whitehead MBE. “He held our hand through the process of doing it first time and we realised it wasn’t actually as complicated as we thought it might be.”
“We did the UKTI Passport to Export programme and went on courses and went on market visits to certain countries,” said Maria. “They could point us towards customers who were looking for our products.”
Maria – who sits on the DEFRA export forum for food and drink – says any business considering export should contact the UKTI for advice.
“Without a doubt the UKTI was really important to us. They have got all the resources to hand and when you make contact they will put you in touch with an international trade adviser,” she said. “You will be able to get advice on all sorts of things, from labelling laws to translations to which shows to go and exhibit at. It is really key to get into that network and use it as well.”
She said EU trading rules meant it was often easier to begin exporting to Europe before looking further afield, but wherever people decided to export to it was necessary to research the location in advance and taylor marketing materials to fit it.
“The starting point is knowing which foods they normally eat in which country, have they got a sweet tooth or do they like spicy things and then think about products which would fit in,” Maria said. “In Japan they have a very sweet tooth and so we sell a lot of things like lemon curd and salted caramel sauce. We do quite a bit of business with the Czech Republic and Germany and they certainly love things like our beetroot and horseradish chutney, but they don’t really know what to do with it. It is about getting the PR and marketing right so people understand what we do. We put information on the label and if required we translate it. You can ring up a British embassy abroad to speak to the international trade adviser for that country. They will look at your products and look at what might be suitable for that market but then they will also put you in touch with distributors. If you fly to that country and set up meetings you hold the meetings in the embassy and that gives you a lot of credibility.”
Another Cumbria exporter who has been helped by UKTI is Simon Johns a director of The Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Co. The organisation alerted him to a business which he went on last month to sell the desert at a special event organised by a mall in Osaka, Japan.
The company also exports to the US, France and Germany.
“To grow overseas is definitely something we are looking at, but we haven’t really focused officially on any one place,” said Simon. “There is a big British fairy they hold (in Osaka) where they get half-a-million visitors over a week. Hopefully Japan will be the market that England was 25 years ago and we will be there first. That is the Holy Grail, to find somewhere that hasn’t been exposed to it and get them hooked.”
Currently the company exports putting to supermarket chain Spinneys in Dubai, but it is hoping to grow its overseas market.
“I saw it was a nice supermarket and I emailed them and they said send something over and they liked it,” said Simon. “But for everyone of those there are 100 that you never hear back from. We exhibited at the International Food Exhibition earlier this year and met some people from all over the world and some of those contacts might span out, but it takes a while. You just need to be out there and let people know you are willing to export.”
For Staveley’s Hawkshead Brewery, their journey into the world of export began during a trade exhibition in Las Vegas and, again UKTI played an important part in helping them build the contacts and knowledge they needed.
It was partly funded by the UKTI and it was really with that trip in mind that we started to explore more of the services they had to offer,” said sales manager Anne Jones. “We got our own personal adviser and they were incredibly helpful in giving us all the information and documentation we needed. You can’t personally know everything and there are a plethora of experts in different fields they can put you in touch with. We needed to know about export duty and how you physically get beer from across countries and about the different laws. In America, for example, each state has a different alcohol policy.”
She said a worldwide interest in the type of craft beer which Hawkshead made was driving a demand for export, with the brewery selling its brews in Norway, France, Germany and Hong Kong in addition to the US.
It’s a niche market really, selling a premium product, because we don’t have the capacity here to supply the kind of pile it high and sell it cheap customers, “she said. “At the moment they key word is ‘craft’ and if you are a small brewer developing craft beers using weird and wonderful ingredients then that goes well. People seek out Hawkshead because of the stuff we are doing and the profile that we have on social media. It is a great profile building exercise and you get a name for being very good at what you do. It boosts your reputation across the world and there is no harm in that at all.”
Note: Since this article was originally written, UKTI has changed to the Department for International Trade.
Get in Touch
If you are looking for further advice on exporting, please contact Cumbria Business Growth Hub:
Tel: 0844 257 8450