Norfolk food manufacturer tastes success in Singapore with UKTI support

Carter: learning

Carter: learning curve on trading overseas

A leading UK premium party food manufacturer is working with UKTI to cherry-pick new overseas markets for its upmarket range of sweet and savoury finger food.

Frank Dale Foods produces 14m Classic British Miniatures every year – from savoury canapés and quiches, to strawberry & cream scones and other desserts. A family business with a 20 year history, the company has supplied Mini Victoria Sponges for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Sandringham Estate, and its regular UK client base includes high end retail outlets such as Booths and Ocado. With more than 50 UK distributors and a significant share of the UK foodservice sector, the company’s saturation of the home market prompted it to develop a five year plan that would target overseas sales.

Following an opportune referral to UKTI in September 2013, a representative of Frank Dale Foods met with UKTI international trade adviser Rosemary O’Connor for an initial diagnostic meeting that aimed to identify how UKTI could best support and develop the company’s plans for international growth. During this meeting O’Connor recommended the company join the Passport to Export initiative, which helps businesses to overcome any barriers they may have when exporting for the first time.

“The Passport Scheme has been an invaluable part of our learning and, in turn, our strategy,” said Claire Carter, international business development executive for Frank Dale Foods. “In a relatively short space of time we have learnt a huge amount about the practicalities involved in trading overseas. The advice, support, workshops, one-to-ones, and networking events have been instrumental in our export achievements to date.”

One such event was Explore Export, an annual UKTI initiative that in November 2013 saw 130 UKTI Commercial Officers and British Chamber of Commerce representatives from 80 countries visit 10 cities across the UK to provide companies with export advice and insight into global business opportunities. “This was where our export strategy really started to develop,” said Carter. “We were particularly considering overseas markets in Commonwealth countries that had an affinity with British products and the English language. We identified several Consulates with whom we wanted to speak and various seminars that we wanted to attend, to help us learn more about trading in specific international markets.”

O’Connor said: “After the event we also used a UKTI screening tool to help Frank Dale Foods narrow their field, scoring potential target markets according to factors such as growth, proximity, cultural affinity and language.  Singapore came out top, followed by Hong Kong and South Africa.”

Carter followed through with a significant amount of research into the Singapore market, taking advantage of UKTI’s Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS), which provides free, independent advice for companies who want to maximise the potential of market research when exploring a new overseas market.

She also commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) report for Singapore, to identify buyers in specific catering and retail organisations ahead of her market visit planned for February 2014.

“UKTI’s Singapore office was amazing. They were able to give me formal introductions to the companies we wanted to meet with.  As a company new to export, going into a new market that we didn’t know very well, this was invaluable. It gave us so much more credibility: a meeting request coming from the British Consulate in Singapore will be taken seriously. On my arrival in Singapore UKTI even provided a folder of background information and a map showing how to get from one company to the next.”

“Taking a field trip to Singapore with UKTI support was a massive step forward for the company,” said O’Connor. “It gave it the confidence to move forwards and build on all the desk-based research they had done.”

Frank Dale Foods then took a stand at the FHA Food Show in Singapore, in April 2014, inviting the companies it had met with in February to come and sample their products.

“All of the companies we invited came to our stand, which was a great result. At one point we had the two biggest retailers in Singapore on our stand at the same time, both of which wanted exclusivity. We were delighted when the chief executive of the largest and most upmarket company, Cold Storage, returned the following day to secure a deal with us,” said Carter.

Working with Cold Storage has indirectly opened up other markets for Frank Dale Foods in Malaysia and Hong Kong, as its consolidator – a firm which groups together orders from different companies into one shipment – also serves these markets and was able to broker introductions to key retailers, in September 2014. The company is also actively exploring trading opportunities in Australia, following contacts it made at the Singapore food show.

O’Connor continues to meet with Carter every four to six weeks, acting as an export coach and mentor, reviewing actions and helping the company to consider its next steps.

“We would not have got to this stage as quickly without UKTI support. Rosemary has been fantastic: she has given us a huge amount of encouragement and strategic support,” said Carter. “I would thoroughly recommend the Passport to Export scheme to any company looking to set out on a new export journey.”