100-year-old Essex drinks business wins organic juice deal to Japan

An Essex-based drink supplier that was founded over a century ago has secured a £500,000 deal to sell its organic fruit juices to Japanese businesses through to April 2021.

Founded by spice trader Gerald McDonald in 1917, the self-named business is now managed by his grandson Gerald and great-grandson Maxim. From its headquarters in Basildon, the juices are exported to over 20 countries, with international sales accounting for 20% of Gerald McDonald’s £27m average turnover.

This latest Japanese deal was secured after the Department for International Trade (DIT) assisted the company to attend trade shows and meetings in Japan, where it met new customers. In 2016, Gerald McDonald opened an office in Kobe and DIT is currently providing advice on trademark registration in the country.

Marketing Director at Gerald McDonald, Maxim McDonald: “We are proud to be a British family business and to keep the legacy of my great-grandfather going. Japan has been our biggest exporting step; it is an exciting market and our future focus. It is going to be big for our business and we are in the process of developing our website for future online sales in Japan.”

Gerald McDonald also exports its popular Japanese Yuzu juice outside of Japan and creates bespoke juice mixes at its headquartered blending facility.

On 11 September, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced an agreement in principle of the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the UK’s first free trade agreement since leaving the EU.

East of England exporters of food and drink, which were worth over £33m to Japan last year stand to benefit from reductions in tariffs and red tape as part of this deal.

Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss: “The trade deal we signed with Japan was a historic moment and will offer tariff-free trade on 99% of UK exports to Japan, creating new opportunities for people in the East of England and helping level up the whole country. It will help businesses like Gerald McDonald sell more of their fantastic produce to the world’s third largest economy and encourage more of our small companies do the same. More trade and investment is crucial to overcoming the economic challenges of Coronavirus and supporting UK jobs.”