A natural path to exporting

A natural path to exporting

Eat Natural was launched by best friends Praveen Vijh and Preet Grewal back in 1997. They spotted a gap in the market for nutritious snacks and wanted to create a healthy snack bar to fill it. 19 years on, the company now exports to 33 countries across the globe. BQ found out how they made it happen…

Eat Natural’s cereals and cereal bars are made with all natural ingredients, including whole nuts and whole pieces of fruit.

The business was founded on the promise that all of its products would be transparent – meaning consumers knew exactly what they were biting into.

As consumers started to become more and more conscious about what they were digesting, the trend helped Eat Natural cement its place as one of Europe’s leading healthy snack manufacturers.

Co-founder Praveen Vijh told BQ: “We make fruit and nut bars, and a range of breakfast cereal, right here in the heart of Essex.

“When we launched the business we wanted to create a completely new kind of snack, one that was wholesome, as unprocessed as possible, and one where the packaging reflected the simplicity of the ingredients.”

Initially setting up in the UK, it didn’t take long for the duo to begin exporting their products and they broke into the European market not long after launching.

“We realised early on that our European neighbours loved our products,” Praveen added. “They embrace an active lifestyle more than perhaps us Brits did then, so we tapped into that trend.

“We did a trade show very early on and, off the back of that, we secured a listing with Albert Heijn. Things went mad from there and we have never looked back.

“We’ve now been exporting for 15 years and export our bars and breakfasts to 33 countries worldwide.

“The majority of our exports go to Europe. However, our business is now building in the Middle East and Asia.”

Although Eat Natural has been an established exporter for 16 years, the company still draws on external expertise from time-to-time.

One avenue in particular which has benefited Praveen and his team has been the government’s Department for International Trade, formerly known as UKTI.

Speaking on the support received, he added: “The Department for International Trade has been very supportive as have the FDEA.

“The Department for International Trade provide a range of services, from tradeshow grants to business modules at CASS.

“Membership of the FDEA has also allowed us the opportunity to network with fellow exporters.

“It is always valuable to speak to somebody who trades in a country or works with a prospective importer.”

Commenting on the firm’s success, Parveen Thornhill, London regional director at the Department for International Trade, said: “Eat Natural are a real exporting success story.

“Food and drink is one of London’s top exports, and it’s these kind of innovative products that set the capital’s businesses apart.

“But it’s also that ‘made in the UK’ factor that helps London companies go global. The world wants to buy what we’re selling.

“Overseas, brand UK is a mark of quality, innovation and excellence. There are currently more than 200 food and drink exporting opportunities listed on the Exporting is GREAT website alone, and this is just a fraction of all the opportunities out there.

“Companies like Eat Natural are a big priority for us. The Exporting is GREAT campaign is about getting more companies to follow in their footsteps.

“The latest statistics show that UK food and drink exports reached £6.6bn in just the first six months of the year. We want to see that figure grow further.”

Looking forward, Praveen and Preet have ambitious plans for the company as it looks to expand its product portfolio and break into further markets.

“Our business is building in the Middle East and we would also like to explore more options in Asia,” he added. “Actually the world is our oyster; if there is an opportunity we will consider it. 

“For our developed markets we are looking to tailor our offering to the tastes and trends. Export is a key component of our business and we will continue to grow it over the next five years.”

As an entrepreneur who has built a business from the ground up and is actively flying the flag for the UK overseas, Praveen has some useful tips for other businesses looking to follow in his footsteps.

He concluded: “Europe is a good starting point for ease of doing business. Do your homework on prospective importers: ask for references, ask them how they service the market, which channels do they think your product will sell in, and where do they see your product on shelf.

“Language barriers can also be an issue but you can be sure to avoid these by making sure you speak and write clearly and give your colleague time to respond. Remember they might be speaking in their second or third language!

“Google Translate is a wonder tool if you are ever stuck. For etiquette and culture, make sure you read up beforehand on the culture so that you don’t put yourself in a compromising position. Little details such as receiving and presenting a business card with two hands in Japan go a long way.

“Finally, take the time to go over to the market; most of the European countries can be done in one day. It will help you build a successful relationship with your importer and offer you valuable insight into the market.”

 

 

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