With British food and drink exports booming, Paul Shand from the Department for International Trade, discusses how food and drink producers can make the most of trade shows to drive export growth.
The global food and drink industry is preparing for the launch of the trade show season.
Over the next six months, tens of thousands of delegates working in the food and drink industry across the globe will be flocking to some of the world’s largest food and drink shows, including Food and Hotel China (FHC) and Gulfood in Dubai, in search of new products and new partnerships.
Many South West firms will be among them. Unsurprising, given the unprecedented demand for the region’s food and drink products overseas.
In the year to March 2018, exports of food and drink from across the region totalled an impressive £760m, an increase of 7% on the previous 12-month period.
Capitalising on overseas demand offers producers the opportunity to increase their profitability, as well as boosting their resilience to market fluctuations at home.
For those looking to begin or grow their exporting activity, trade shows offer a great way to meet potential partners and buyers in key overseas markets.
They provide a strong platform for the launch of new products, as well as a chance for producers to directly field test their products with an overseas customer base. Nothing matches being able to interact with international consumers, distributors and buyers face-to-face.
For many food and drink businesses, the feedback garnered from these conversations is a crucial element in determining future export strategy and even the products they will take to market.
While there are obvious benefits, there a few things firms looking at attending an international trade show should consider beforehand.
Taking your staff and products overseas to a trade show can be expensive, with the combined costs of travel and registration potentially posing a burden to many food and drink SMEs.
As with any significant investment, businesses should carry out thorough research before committing.
It’s important to determine which shows will have the right buyers attending and offer the best visibility for their product, as well as where market demand matches their product range.
Speaking to similar businesses who are already exporting and asking about their trade show experience is great way to discover the best shows for each firm
Language must also be considered – particularly in markets where English is less commonly spoken, such as China.
Hiring a translator to provide support during, and sometimes after the event, to facilitate discussions with new contacts, can be extremely beneficial.
With the right support, all of the challenges relating to attending overseas trade shows can be addressed. One South West firm who did just that is Cotswold-based bakery, Huffkins.
After receiving support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to attend the FOODEX trade show in Tokyo last March, Huffkins received strong interest from a number of Japanese food and drink distributors. It went on to secure a partnership with one of them.
The bakery’s products are now available in two high-end department stores in Tokyo and, as of this month, will be up for sale online through Huffkins’ Japanese distributor’s website.
As well as providing funding to take part on the trip, government advisers were able to help the business with translation services.
As part of the Food is GREAT campaign, Defra and DIT are offering support to encourage more UK food and drink businesses to consider exporting.
This includes funding to attend trade shows overseas through the Trade Show Access Programme (TAP), as well as opportunities to attend meet-the-buyer events held regularly across the South West.
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