Dragons' Den firm sells Chinese sauce to China

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Helen and Lisa Tse: proud of their £6M achievement in selling Chinese sauces to China
Helen and Lisa Tse: proud of their £6M achievement in selling Chinese sauces to China

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Dragons’ Den winners Helen and Lisa Tse – the driving force behind Chinese sauce manufacturer and Manchester restaurant Sweet Mandarin – have thanked Prime Minister David Cameron, after he helped them win an export deal with China worth £6M over the next five years.

Helen Tse told FoodManufacture.co.uk that Cameron’s personal intervention on the recent trade mission to China had helped them win the deal, which will create at least 15 new jobs.

“It’s amazing: Thank you Mr Prime Minister,”​ said Tse. “Mr Cameron supports small- and medium-sized enterprises like us. This trade mission has really shined a spotlight on us.”

But the export order – focusing on three gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free sauces: Sweet chilli, Sweet and sour and Barbecue – could be just the start of a vast export market for the Manchester-based business.

‘Target market for our sauces is about 600M to 700M people’

“The population of China is about 1.5bn but we reckon the target market for our sauces is about 600M to 700M people. So, it is huge compared with the 77M consumers in the UK,” ​said Tse.

Sweet Mandarin is also lining up other export destinations, in addition to the increasingly affluent Chinese market. “We have also just signed another deal with the United Arab Emirates, which will probably be worth £500,000 a year,”​ said Tse.

In the UK, the manufacturer will be launching a new range of sauces in the third quarter of the year and has plans to sell Sweet Mandarin branded woks through a supermarket.

Tse was proud of the firm’s growing international success: “Yes, it is really funny, a Manchester business selling Chinese sauces to China.”

After the trade mission, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills confirmed trade and investment deals totaling more than £5.6bn that are predicted to create over 1,500 UK jobs.

‘Compete in the global race’

Cameron said: “Linking Britain to fast-growing markets like China is a vital part of the government’s plan to provide sustainable growth and compete in the global race.”

The announcements showed the huge potential to increase business with China, he added.

“We are determined to do all we can to throw open the door for British companies to benefit from China’s vast and varied markets, showcasing British business, particularly small enterprises, in China and highlighting investment opportunities.”

Other deals struck on the trade visit were a £4.5bn export order for Jaguar Land Rover and Surrey Satellites Technology’s contract with Chinese partner Space Star Technology Company for a new satellite constellation worth £100M.

The Tse sisters won investment worth £50,000 from Dragons' Den ​investors Duncan Bannatyne and Hilary Devey in the BBC2 TV show broadcast in September 2011.

Since then, they have won orders to supply Tesco and Ocado, together with markets in China, Russia, Switzerland and Germany.

Earlier this year they opened their first food factory​ to meet soaring demand for their products.

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