South West firms head to China with appetite to export

Export | Food & Drink | South West

Food producers from across the South West embarked on a trade mission to Shanghai this week, to secure international opportunities at China’s largest trade show for the food and hospitality industry.

Four of the region’s producers, including Somerset-based Somerdale International, Bath’s Fine Cheese Company, Exeter-based Frobishers Juices and Wiltshire-based Coombe Castle, exhibited at Food & Hotel China (FHC). The show was also attended by Salcombe Gin.

The firms were among a mission of 23 British producers organised as part of the Food is GREAT campaign – the UK government’s cross department initiative to showcase food and drink overseas by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Food is GREAT hosted an exclusive event at the show where 50 companies exhibited products to 300 attendees, including Chinese distributors and e-commerce buyers, industry buyers for hotels, restaurants and supermarkets, key opinion leaders and representatives from Chinese trade media and associations. The value of goods exported by South West firms to China totalled £14.8m in 2017.

It also hosted sessions highlighting the strength of the UK’s food and drink market, and a networking event that was broadcast via WeChat, China’s popular social media and messaging app, featuring tours of the UK pavilion and interviews with UK businesses.

Somerdale International attended FHC in previous years as part of their ongoing export strategy, and returned this year to explore new opportunities in the Chinese market. In the 12 months to June 2018, South West exports of dairy and birds’ eggs to China totalled £3.7bn, up 21% on the same period the year before.

Steve Carter, Sales and Marketing Director at Frobishers Juices, said: “As an SME Frobishers found the DTI invaluable in delivering insights and support when we explored China as a potential market for our brand.  Attending a trade mission with further investment in the form of a stand at FHC2017 gave us a great opportunity to meet potential customers and resulted in us working with a major importer.  The events and introductions provided to us by the DTI whilst attending the trade mission and FHC made a real difference to our exporting prospects.”

Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of Tarde in the South West, said: “China is a key market for South West producers hungry for growth. Although dairy exports to the market are seeing strong growth driven by a shift in consumer taste, demand isn’t just for our region’s milk and cheese. In fact, South West food and drink exports of everything from beer to seafood totalled £17.2bn in the year to June 2018, up 31% on the previous 12 months.

“Trade missions, such as FHC, are a great opportunity for firms interested in starting or growing their export sales to meet potential buyers and distributers face-to-face and gain first-hand experience of Chinese markets.

“Exporting food and drink to China does have its unique challenges, such as specific packaging requirements and of course issues of language, but our international trade advisers are on hand to help firms navigate these hurdles, and many more besides. I’d encourage anyone interested in seeing what exporting can do for them to get in touch and see how we can help – the support is out there, and you could be too.”

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