The business secured the export deal after receiving support from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to attend a trade show in Tokyo last March, as part of a delegation showcasing British food and drink to the Japanese market.
Following the trade show, Huffkins received strong interest from a number of Japanese food and drink distributors, one of which it secured a partnership with in October of last year.
The bakery’s products are now available in two high-end department stores in Tokyo and, as of this month, will be for sale online through Huffkins’ Japanese distributor’s website. In November, the distributor will also be opening a shop in central Tokyo, with a dedicated section for the bakery’s goods.
Natasha Whittaker, head of wholesale and export at Huffkins, said: “Exporting has been a key element of Huffkins’ business strategy, and our new deal with Japan is a real opportunity for the business’ growth.
“Although there was clearly strong demand, there were still a few barriers we had to address in getting our products on Japanese shelves. For example, Japan has strict quarantine regulations that determine what ingredients can be included in food and drink and require you to list each ingredient’s country of origin.
“The support of DIT here in the south west helped us get to Tokyo in the first place, but it has also provided us with access to UK Government support on the ground in Japan who could assist in co-ordinating with possible buyers and help overcome the language barrier.”
She added that the business was targeting Scandinavia next. Over the next year, the company would be looking to expand its exports into Scandinavia and other European markets, and has been working with International Trade Advisers from DIT to carry out market research and identify new business opportunities, she said.
“We’re now working with our Government trade adviser at home to explore how we can get our products to Scandinavia,” said Whittaker. “Exporting isn’t always plain sailing, but with the right knowledge and support, it can be very fruitful. If a Cotswold bakery like ours can do it, others can too.”
Paul Shand, DIT’s head of south west, said: “Huffkins has been proactive in seeking out new business overseas, and are now reaping the rewards.”
Huffkins currently has three tea rooms in the south west, including two in Cheltenham and one in Stow on the Wold. In October, the company will be opening a sixth tea room in the new John Lewis store in Cheltenham.
Last year the company sent three of its staff from its tearoom in Burford and its bakery in Witney to Toyko, to open a pop-up tearoom in luxury department store Isetan, in the city’s Shinjuku district, where they sold more than 12,000 Huffkins scones in six days.