A lot of people don’t know this, but exporting is possible even if you only have one or two products, you don’t need to be a larger corporation to do so...due to the pandemic, we probably ventured down the export route earlier than anticipated."
What was the first step you took to explore this route to market?
Through the SME community provided by Bread & Jam’s Food Hub on Facebook. It was also recommended to create an account and set up a business page on the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) site for exporting opportunities. This free service acts like a speed-dating site and promotes your products and matches you to overseas buyers. It’s available to any business no matter how small you are or how many products you have.
As a result, I was approached by a distributor on behalf of Coop in Switzerland, and couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Although the Coop’s listing fees were high, it was worth it. We now focus on cherry picking the right distributors to do exporting well in a small part of Europe, rather than saying yes to any random supermarket.
...if I had gone anywhere other than GS1 UK, I wouldn’t have been able to trade on Amazon, overseas or through retailers and would have lost thousands of pounds in repackaging costs."
How have GS1 standards enabled your exporting journey?
I found out about GS1 barcodes through Bread & Jam’s Food Hub community on Facebook. It was initially a little daunting getting a barcode, as there are more options than I realised. Getting it right first time was essential.
It turns out there are quite a few barcode resellers, and if I had gone anywhere other than GS1 UK, I wouldn’t have been able to trade on Amazon, overseas or through retailers and would have lost thousands of pounds in repackaging costs.
Their support team was exceptional and provided a wealth of knowledge about barcodes and their importance to my route-to-market strategy. By having a GS1 barcode, my product data is now standardised through the GS1 system, so filling out new-line forms for retailers is extremely easy and my data is the same no matter what platform it’s being viewed on. The GS1 barcode works globally, so I have the confidence that I’ll be able to trade seamlessly across all my channels.
Any tools or resources you’d recommend?
As someone with a food and beverage background, I count myself lucky to have mentors within the industry who have been there and done it already. As a whole, the industry is full of friends and allies where it’s easy to connect with those not competing in the same space.
As previously mentioned, the Food Hub on Facebook has been amazing and pointed me in the direction of GS1 UK and DIT, without whom I wouldn’t be exporting. It’s a supportive community of emerging and scaling food and drink entrepreneurs, who share advice, insights, contacts and their own business experiences. It’s hosted by Bread and Jam, who also run lots of workshops, Monday Motivations sessions and networking events to support growth opportunities.
Young Foodies are another great organisation who offer a wide variety of services and training to challenger food and drink brands.
The latest social media network to emerge, Clubhouse, is fantastic, and my favourite group to engage with is “Pitching”, where I ensure to put a question in every day. I’d like to run more events on Clubhouse, similar to podcasting, where you can be anywhere and just show up and use audio to draw on an audience as much as possible.
Only 10 per cent of UK businesses export, but realistically it should be so much more given the help that’s available."
You recently got invited to 10 Downing Street to discuss international trade. What key points did you raise and what insights can you share with us?
It was an amazing experience. I felt very lucky to join this session and thank GS1 UK and Enterprise Nation for the opportunity. I felt privileged to be invited and be a voice for small brands when it comes to exporting. I was left impressed by Alex Hickman and his knowledge about everything going on in the various departments. Only 10 per cent of UK businesses export, but realistically it should be so much more given the help that’s available. The government genuinely do want help, and to gain insight, improve opportunities and support small businesses for export.