David Hartley, managing director of Wensleydale Dairy Products, shares his tips from growing demand for its distinctive cheese overseas.
1. Seek advice
Hartley says UKTI, the government's trade promotion agency, has been a key source of information in his search for reliable overseas partners. "Their energy levels and technical knowledge are outstanding", he says.
Talking to other exporters also helps in the hunt for trade partners. "Ask other companies, not necessarily in same sector but who have had success with particular retailers," Hartley says.
In 2014 - on the advice of UKTI - the company attended Gulfood, a huge food expo in Dubai. Hartley says it was inundated with enquiries following the expo and as a result now sells its cheeses in countries including UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
"Networking and attending trade shows is vital for meeting people," he says. His own encounters have included a Dubai-based banker with a shared love of Yorkshire cricket who he can now call for valuable local business insights.
3. Protect your brand
Companies should secure trademarks and, where appropriate, patents. But Wensleydale was able to go one step further and - after seven years of negotiation with the European Commission - secured Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for 'Yorkshire Wensleydale' cheese in 2013. This means cheese-makers outside of the designated area can only call their cheese 'Wensleydale', not 'Yorkshire Wensleydale'.
It’s helpful for winning customers overseas – it’s a true sign of quality and we can tell retailers it’s the genuine article
Achieving PGI status was just the beginning. To bring its brand to life, the company has since invested heavily in advertising, PR, social media and a visitor centre.
5. Focus and plan
Launching overseas requires commitment and planning, Hartley says: "Visit the market if you can, try and understand what consumers are looking for, and what packaging requirements you face. You've also got to gain a cultural understanding."
Wensleydale Dairy Products featured on the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 in 2015. For more information on the league table see www.fasttrack.co.uk.
For further information about trading internationally, visit the HSBC Connections Lounge at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool where an HSBC Trade Specialist will be on hand to answer your questions or call +44 (0)800 78 31 300. Lines are open from 9am -5pm, Monday to Friday and calls are recorded for security and training purposes.