A thirst for growth

A thirst for growth

Thomas Fentiman launched Fentimans Ltd back in 1905 before stopping the business in the late 50s. However Eldon Robson, Fentiman’s great grandson, decided to restart the business in 1994 after spotting a gap in the market for quality soft drinks. These days the company exports to 66 countries and is continuing to grow. BQ caught up with Piero Alberici, export director for Fentimans, to hear how the company made it happen...

Exporting as far as Canada, Nigeria and the USA, Fentimans spent its early years exporting to six key markets.

The company made the brave decision however to introduce a new strategy in a bid to become a more proactive international company and has since reached 66 territories.

The decision to strengthen its global exporting presence was prompted by the company desire to continue to grow, as the UK premium soft drinks sector showed signs of reaching saturation in 2009.

In addition, the markets for premium mixers were beginning to grow, thanks to a boost in popularity for premium spirits such as gin.

According to Piero Alberici the easiest part of exporting is thanks to 'the fact that English products have a good reputation worldwide, making them easy to sell to an international market.' However, exporting isn’t without its difficulties, as commercial and regulatory barriers exist across all markets.

The firm was also faced frequently with language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and cultural differences, as Piero points out: “All of these factors have at times created problems.

"In 2015 we fixed a Euro exchange rate with our European customers. Whilst this impacted our percentage margin, it enabled us to keep our consumer prices static and so sales volume growth continued uninterrupted.”

Luckily, throughout its exporting journey, Fentimans has received support from the now defunct Virtual Export Manager scheme, from UKTI, helping the firm to navigate its way into new countries.

When asked what advice he would give to someone starting to explore overseas markets, Piero said: “Complete a full internal functional and financial survey to ensure the company is in a position to start and capitalise on the export opportunity.”

Looking to the future, Fentimans hope to reach up to 80 markets in the next two years.

“This will mean reaching out to complicated markets like India and Brazil,” said Piero.

“This may require some production overseas. Within five years we plan for exports to grow to become the most significant channel in our business. This will create many new job opportunities."

This feature is part of BQ’s year-long International Trade Campaign coinciding with the Northern Powerhouse Awards being held in Yorkshire next year.

The PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.


The Department for International Trade (DIT) are a partner for the Around the World in 80 Trades feature.

The Northern Powerhouse team of DIT offers a whole host of support for businesses across the Northern region that wish to export.   Regular regional hosted webinars and events include topics such as strategy, finding the right market, finance, e-exporting and research.  The sessions are very practical and provide guidance from those who have experienced exporters.  For brand new exporters there are taster missions and trade missions, to a number of countries, where DIT find opportunities in a particular country and take UK companies to meet with potential buyers.

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialised government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy and supporting business. 

Visit www.great.gov.uk or contact northeast@mobile.trade.gov.uk