Exporting your food and drink brand

[Guest Post] Hi, my name is Victoria Bolst and I specialise in exporting food and drink brands around the world. I am super excited to share my ‘Big Cheese Expertise’ with you lovely food and drink entrepreneurs this week, so here are my top 3 tips for your small business if you’re thinking of exporting your food and drink brand overseas. 

Being multilingual means I have lived in several different countries, so I have always worked internationally in various marketing and business development roles. I decided to take my export business knowledge and fuse it with my passion for healthy eating and an active lifestyle to create Bolst Global – an export business specialising in small, yet ambitious, health food and drink brands. We assist you in exploring international business opportunities for exporting your food and drink brand overseas, and help drive growth for your company through a range of export training, management consulting and management services.

Whilst the whole possibility of selling and marketing your products internationally may seem like a distant fantasy for you right now, and in reality, only a measly one in five UK companies across all industries are currently exporting (FSB report 2016). Yet developing technology and increased levels of globalisation have made it much easier for brands to begin their export journey earlier on. In some cases, I have known brands for whom their first large order actually came from another part of the world and not their domestic UK market!

And actually, done right there are HUGE opportunities for British companies overseas, we just need the expertise, energy and enthusiasm to pursue them!

To give you an idea: on a global spectrum, UK food and drink is exported to over 160 countries and, in 2015, reached over £18.1 billion in value. Most recently (November 16), the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reported exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drinks increased 13.7% in the third quarter of 2016,  valued at a whooping £3.4bn in value.

Significantly, sales to non-European Union (EU) markets grew at twice the rate of the EU; and with the EU still the top destination for branded exports by a factor of 2:1, there is plenty of room for non-EU export growth as well as still looking within the EU presently, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. And conversely, the weaker pound since late 2015 and sharp falls seen post-referendum mean UK exports have become increasingly competitive in recent months too.

The UK Government has recognised that exporting is key to the long-term success of the UK food and drink industry and is therefore committing resources to help more companies export. It has set ambitious targets to increase the number of exporters by 2020, with a focus on nine strategic target markets outside of Europe including the UAE, Australia, China and the US.

So without blinding you with any more statistics, here are my top three tips when it comes to starting out in exporting:

1. Make sure you are willing and able to commit to exporting your food and drink brand

As with any business decision, it is important to commit fully to the choices you make and with the direction you wish to take. Deciding to embrace exporting and viewing international business as a fundamental part of developing your brand and growing sales, goes hand in hand.

You need to put resources behind your international activities in the form of the three ‘P’s

There has to be someone driving international growth forward, which does come at a cost to the business (not only in the (wo)man power but also in the lag time it can take to process an export order versus a domestic one). Moreover, when it comes to manufacturing, you also need to be able to scale up your production capability and adapt to specific export customer needs too. If you aren’t able to invest into all of the above then you may not be export ready just yet, and this is definitely worth bearing in mind.

2. Research, research and justify

Ensure you do some investigative work on the potential markets which could be the best fit for your product(s) and have a rationale to determine which markets you will focus on. It can be easy to take a very scattergun approach to exporting your food and drink brand and whilst this can give you some opportunistic wins, you do risk overstretching your resources and not being in a position to hone in on the markets where the biggest opportunities could be for you.

However, there is only so much that desk research can do for you. Nothing beats getting out into your target markets, visiting prospects and customers and carrying out more detailed research about the viability of entering a new market, while trying to find suitable partners to collaborate with.

3. Be flexible in your approach and open in your mindset

When you are selling and marketing in various markets and cultures then one size does not fit all, so you must be willing to adapt many of your processes (and more importantly, your mindset), in order to be truly successful internationally.

The best way to do this is to really listen to what your customers, partners and prospects are telling you about their needs and market demands. And then see if you can service and deliver what they are looking for with your product, your brand, your values and your promises.

You may have to adapt the way you see the market or the kind of relationship you wish to have with your partners in the market to make this viable. However, if you believe that this is possible and worthwhile then go for it!

You have to try a number of approaches and not be afraid to keep persisting as exporting is something you need to be in for the long term. But from personal experience, I can tell you that the rewards can be more than worth it over time!

*** Special Offer for Smoothie PR Readers! ***

If you want to find out more about starting your own international journey or, are already in the process of exporting your food and drink brand, I am offering a FREE 30-minute 1-1 session. You can ask me any burning questions you have and we can discuss what your export strategy could look like.

This is an ongoing offer, no matter how far into the future you’re reading this post!

If you would like to get in touch to discuss these offers or anything else around exporting your food and drink brand, you can email me, take a look at my website and follow me on Twitter.

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you’re looking to grow your business, check out blog posts written by other food industry experts including Tips to get your food and drink brand into the travel sector.

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