‘Export to Europe first before taking on China’

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Europe represents 70% of UK exports
Europe represents 70% of UK exports

Related tags: International trade, Trade

Small UK food and drink manufacturers looking to begin exporting should focus on markets closer to home before tackling countries such as China, the Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA) has warned.

FDEA director Sandra Sullivan said firms should start with European markets because they were better established and already represented 70% of total UK exports.

“China probably isn’t the right place to start. It is easier to service the closer European markets,” ​said Sullivan at the international food and drink event IFE, held in London last month. “I would not say rush out and start with China because the top 10 markets for UK exports are all still in Europe bar one​ [US].”

Share contacts and experiences

She said the best way to start exporting successfully was to visit the target market for a trade show. Fellow exporters attending these shows were sometimes happy to share their contacts and experiences, she added.

“You cannot underestimate the benefits from getting to know people in the market,” ​said Sullivan. “You need to put yourself on the radar. Make your product something that everyone knows about and you’ll be amazed at how much help is sent your way.”

She added that firms needed to make sure they had properly researched the markets they were targeting before starting to export.

“I have heard many horror stories about companies having products on the boat ready to export only to find out that they haven't done everything necessary to export to a particular country,”​ she warned. “For each market there are things you have to do; for example to export seafood and dairy you need to be on an export register.”

‘Move your strategy’

Roy Edelston, owner of consultancy Green Seed Germany said the best way to access overseas markets was to do business with retailers from those countries in the UK first. “The ideal route into the German retail market is to trade with Aldi in the UK and then move your strategy to either Aldi Nud or Aldi Sud.”

However, he warned that the German market was a tough nut to crack for UK food and drink manufacturers. He advised that it was better for businesses to target one retailer first and only seek to expand if that experience proved to be successful.

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