Husband and wife team Andrea and Mike Jessop launched Moo Free back in 2010 after discovering that there were very few dairy free milk chocolates in the marketplace. BQ caught up with Mike to hear how they conquered overseas markets.
Moo Free Ltd was established in 2010 to manufacture chocolate products, free from dairy, wheat, gluten and soya, and certified vegan from its own factory and is now a market leader for dairy free “milk” chocolates in UK, Ireland, Spain, Australia and other countries.
The company was founded based on ethical principles and it aims to work with similarly focused businesses across its target market. Overseas sales have grown by over 200% over the last three years with an increase in UK employees, profitability and overall sales.
BQ caught up with co-founder Mike Jessop to find out how they made it happen, and what advice they would give to other businesses looking to branch out overseas.
What does the company do?
Moo Free is a manufacturer of quality milk chocolates that are completely dairy free, gluten free, soya free, vegan and organic. We make a large range of chocolate products including chocolate bars, chocolate drops and seasonal products such as Advent Calendars and Easter Eggs.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
The company was launched by my wife Andrea and I at the end of 2010. We launched the company after discovering that there was very few dairy free milk chocolates in the market and that none of the major chocolate manufacturers were producing chocolate products such as Easter Eggs and Advent Calenders.
How long has the company been exporting?
Moo Free started exporting within a few months of its launch largely due to a very prominent website which was coming top of search engine listing around the world for key phrases relating to food allergies and intolerances. In total Moo Free has been exporting for just over five years.
What do you currently export, and where to?
Moo Free exports dairy free chocolate products all over the world including much of Europe, the United States, the Middle East, Australasia and Hong Kong. Their products include large and small chocolate bars, Easter eggs, Advent Calendars, selection boxes, chocolate Santas and bags of chocolate drops. They are just launching a range of bulk chocolate ingredients both for the free-from food industry and the home baker.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Moo Free's goal is to become the world leading manufacturer of dairy free chocolate. There is only one way to achieve this and that is to dominate the free-from chocolate markets all over the world.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Everything that Moo Free ships overseas is sent out Ex-Works (EXW). This means that the overseas buyer arranges and pays for all costs associated with the delivery of their order. This includes courier fees as well as any local taxation and duty charges.
And the most challenging part?
Our greatest challenge was working out how to export anything. We had no background in the food industry or in shipping large order anywhere. We didn't even know anything about pallets or how to ship them.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
Other than the occasional large customer wanting to pay in Euros we charge all of our customer in sterling.
Some countries prefer face to face meeting which was a challenge due to the costs involved, but we managed to cope and only met a few of our distributors face to face.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We tried to get help for exporting right from the start, but due to misinformation, and mistakes such as administrative and filing errors by third parties we did not receive any help with exporting for around 18 months. Eventually we gained the assistance and support of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and invaluable government body for any company looking to export.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
If you are thinking of exporting the best single piece of advise that I can give you is to contact UKTI and use their resources.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
This year Moo Free's aim is to expand further in to the US markets. We will also be looking to make progress in Japan and China. In five years time Moo Free will most definitely be the world leading manufacturer of dairy free chocolates.