Dragons Den sisters recruit China's premier to boost exports

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Powerful friends: Helen (L) and Lisa Tse recruited China's premier Li Keqiang to promote their Chinese sauces, after cooking for him and David Cameron
Powerful friends: Helen (L) and Lisa Tse recruited China's premier Li Keqiang to promote their Chinese sauces, after cooking for him and David Cameron

Related tags: British empire, United kingdom, Prime minister

Chinese sauce entrepreneurs Helen and Lisa Tse have recruited an influential ally in their bid to boost their exports to China – the country’s premier Li Keqiang.

Helen, director of Sweet Mandarin, and Lisa, its chief executive and head chef, cooked for president of the world’s most populous country at a dinner in Downing Street with prime minister David Cameron last month (June 17).

After the dinner, the sisters told Food Manufacture​ the premier promised to promote their meals in China. “Premier Li said our food and sauces were delicious and one of the best meals he had ever had and he was proud of us selling back to China,”​ said the Tses. Cameron also told them how much he enjoyed the meal and said he wanted to see the sisters succeed in the lucrative Chinese market for food and drink, which served 1.365bn consumers.

Deal valued at £6M

The sisters – who each received a Member of the British Empire award in the New Year’s honours list – secured an export deal last November to export their gluten-free sauces to China in a deal valued at £6M over the next five years.

They estimated a huge market for their Sweet chilli, Sweet and sour and Barbecue sauces in China compared with potential UK sales. The sisters calculated a potential customer base of between 600M to 700M people in China compared with the UK’s population of about 77M.

During the premier’s visit, trade and investment deals worth £14bn were signed between UK and Chinese firms. The UK was the most popular destination for Chinese investment, benefiting from more than £8bn in 2013/14 alone, which created or saved more than 6,000 UK jobs, according to the department for Business Innovation and Skills. Last year UK exports to China aveaged more than £1bn each month.

Export British lamb and beef

After the premier’s visit the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) welcomed the signing of an agreement between the two governments to start formal talks to export British lamb and beef to China. FUW president Emyr Jones said: “We very much hope it will result in Welsh lamb imports to China in the near future.”

The British Pig Executive (BPEX) and the English Beef and Lamb Executive also highlighted the huge potential of boosting exports to China. After attending the World Meat Congress in Bejing, China in mid June, BPEX export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier said: “It is now very clear that the Chinese demand for high-quality meat is increasing much more rapidly than had been predicted, meaning there are major opportunities for exports.”

Meanwhile, the Tse sisters have been nominated for Food Manufacturing Personality of the Year award along with five other leading industry figures. Place your vote here​.       

Related topics: Ambient foods, Flavours and colours

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