Natalia Welch at Dubai trade show, Gulfood 2018.
Sheffield-based food company Pura Panela has secured a distribution contract with Middle East hypermarket chain LuLu after exhibiting at the world’s largest food and drink trade show in Dubai.
The firm imports and distributes panela, an artisan made dried sugar cane juice, which is made by farmers in Colombia. It has been used in South America for generations as a natural alternative to refined sugar.
Pura Panela attended Gulfood in Dubai this year as part of the Northern Powerhouse delegation, where it won a trial contract with LuLu. After the initial trial period, Pura Panela’s product could potentially be stocked in the retailer’s 128 outlets across the Middle East.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) supported Pura Panela at Gulfood by arranging meetings with Middle Eastern food and drink trade buyers.
Defra and DIT have been supporting UK food and drink exporters in the region as part of Food is GREAT, the UK Government’s cross department campaign to showcase UK food and drink overseas and to help firms to export.
It’s the first time Pura Panela, which started trading as a fully ltd company in 2017, has exported its products to the Middle East. The business had already secured sales in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US through its website, and is in talks with Kuwaiti distributors to supply products to the country’s hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Natalia Welch, founder of Pura Panela, said: “Supplying our panela to LuLu carries huge potential for the future of our business, and we’re really excited to be making inroads to the Middle East.
“I set out to launch Pura Panela with the mindset that it would be an international business. A lot of firms who sell overseas via their websites don’t naturally consider themselves exporters, but with a web presence you can easily open shop all over the world.
“Defra and DIT played a key advisory role for the business once we started receiving online orders from overseas, and their help in overcoming the challenges associated with exporting proved crucial, particularly navigating food and drink regulation.”
Mark Robson, head, UK Regions – Yorkshire and Humber, at the Department for International Trade, said: “Yorkshire and the Humber firms exported £1.1bn worth of food and drink in 2017, over £19m of which went to the Gulf states, a 10% increase on 2016.
“More of our region’s firms are realising the potential in Middle Eastern markets. We have trade missions, such as Gulfood, going to these regions each year, and we encourage firms to get in touch and book their place on one to help kick-start or expand their exporting presence.”
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