The company has been granted a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – which recognises substantial growth in overseas revenues over a period of up to six years – for notching up a 113% rise in overseas earnings since 2010.
Chief executive David Milner of Leominster-based Tyrrells, which manufactures hand-cooked English crisps, popcorn and tortilla chips, joined David Cameron on a successful trade mission to Russia in 2012, which has since led to crisps selling for jaw-dropping recommended retail prices (rrp).
‘Russia is a unique case’
“Russia is a unique case – it’s a real eye opener in terms of routes to market and ways of doing business,” said Tyrrells’ senior marketing manager Cath Whyte. “The distributors and retailers know the market best and they’re pricing at what they believe they can get for it in a premium niche sector, and it works for them. The £5 packs certainly put a smile on our faces.”
But rather than emerging markets, Whyte said Tyrrells’ export successes were down to consolidating efforts around five key areas – the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Germany – and rolling out the UK model into those territories, while addressing local subtleties such as on-pack messaging.
The 150-employee firm has a “seedbed” of around 25 other markets, she added, that will evolve to become focus markets over time. “We’ve tried to replicate what we do in the UK from a brand communication point of view for the focus markets, and to ‘clone’ Tyrrells, but with bespoke websites and packaging,” explained Whyte.
The firm embarked on a UK exports junket to China along with 13 other British companies in 2012, where it now supplies into Carrefour and Shanghai-based distributor Sinodis. Spain, Italy and Scandinavia were also identified as emerging markets. “In the seedbed markets, the UAE [United Arab Emirates] is very exciting and we’re doing very well with Costa Coffee there,” she added.
“The award is evidence that the entertaining English credentials are travelling really well,” continued Whyte. “The real tailoring is in route to market. For example, in France we have a distributor; in the Netherlands we supply direct to retail; while the US is quite convoluted – an agency sets up the distribution routes and there are a lot more steps to retail.”
Simon Waring, md of export consultancy Green Seed Group, which has worked with Tyrrells to develop its US exports, with notable listings in Whole Foods Market, said the quirky Englishness of the brand was finding favour abroad, which is helping to command the eye-watering rrp seen in Russia.
“Some of that will be down to in-market pricing factors of working through distributors and different parts of the chain – not all of that will go directly back to the manufacturer,” he noted. “But if it’s a product that establishes demand, particularly among an affluent niche of consumers who want to be seen enjoying aspirational Western brands, then that premium price position could be a real possibility.”
Tyrrells now has permission to use the award logo for five years, which a Queen’s Awards spokesperson said was useful for exporting companies breaking into new markets.
All sorts of doors open
“In terms of direct benefits, while winners don’t get any funding, most report that once they have a Queen’s Award, all sorts of doors open for them that they otherwise would have found hard to get through,” she said. “Particularly those with international trade that make a presentation to a new client, we’ve heard that once that client sees the Queen’s Award emblem, they’re almost through the door without having to do very much else.”
Also among the first-time winners this year was Studley-based Spencer Feeds, an agricultural technology business based in Studley, which employs only four people.