Saltaire Brewery has been brewing beer since 2006. Recognising a change in the UK market, the company made the decision to begin exporting its products overseas. Sales and Logistics Director, Nick Helliwell tells us how, with the help of the Department for International Trade, the company has achieved overseas success.
Tell us about Saltaire Brewery and why you decided to start exporting?
Having entered the market long after the established players in the industry and well before the craft beer boom, we straddle the divide between traditional and contemporary. Since inception we have consistently grown and picked up numerous awards along the way. We made the decision to export because we recognised the UK market had become relatively mature. Beer consumption as a whole is dropping and whilst craft beer is still in growth, it probably hasn’t got a huge amount left to increase.
What markets do you foresee having greater potential for growth?
We view the rest of Europe as markets that are generally much earlier in their craft beer development. Our target markets are primarily Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Italy and Spain as these countries are aware of craft beer, have a taste for imported beer and are comfortable dealing with the UK. Outside of Europe, we are focusing on the Far East, which doesn’t have a strong domestic craft beer market, and is therefore looking for imported solutions. The UK generally has a good reputation in that area of the world.
How would you say exporting has benefited your business?
Exporting is a long-term growth area for our business. We’re prepared to work hard at it now, to see great rewards in the future. The past six months have seen us quadruple our export sales, with regular orders going out to more than a dozen countries. This is still modest in comparison to our domestic market, but we expect it to grow significantly over the next five years.In the meantime, we believe it has benefited our reputation and standing, both in the UK and internationally. As a result, we have made some good relationships with breweries and other partners outside of the UK, for knowledge sharing, collaboration and other activities.
How has DIT and the Northern Powerhouse supported you on your export journey so far?
DIT helped a great deal early on by giving us support in understanding market intelligence across the world, routes to those markets and trade mission opportunities. We have also recently become a Northern Powerhouse Export Champion. As we have become more self-sufficient, the nature of the support has changed. We now work with the DIT once we have found a potential export partner, to give us comfort that we have chosen the right business to work with, as well as attending trade missions.
What trade missions have you joined and how have they helped you to export?
We attended the Northern Powerhouse trade missions to Ljubljana, Zagreb and Anuga in 2017 and in 2018 the Beer Box mission to Maine. It was during this mission that we were introduced to the American company Lone Pine Brewing. We have since collaborated on a brew which we launched simultaneously for sale. We now also export to Germany and the USA, which we owe in part to attendance on these missions.
Do you have any tips for other businesses undertaking their first trade mission?
Be prepared! Read up in advance, find buyers, contact them, arrange meetings for when you are in the market and take product samples to show them. You should also get involved with everything on the trade mission agenda and make sure to follow up on every contact you have made. Even if you are not currently in a position to do business together, you should ensure they think of you when the time comes. Finally, be an ambassador, remember you are representing your business and your country.
Speaking of being an ambassador, you mentioned your role as a Northern Powerhouse Export Champion. What does this mean to you?
We have worked hard to represent the Northern Powerhouse for many years and so are delighted to have been chosen as an Export Champion. This is a relatively recent development for us, but we’ve already seen an increase in exposure, PR, marketing and networking opportunities. It also means that we can start to support other businesses that are earlier in their export journey.
What advice would you give to other businesses wanting to sell their product or service overseas?
Don’t just sit at home emailing presentations around the world. You have to get out into markets, meet people, understand them, ask questions, listen, make the effort! Focus on local markets first, before trying to land a big fish like China or the USA. You must also be prepared to negotiate as there will be lots of layers of distribution, all needing their cut, and the product has to get on the shelf at the right price or it won’t sell. Be ready for the volume if it comes, and maintain your quality!
To find out more about how DIT can support your business growth, get in touch.
Enterprise Growth Solutions Ltd (EGSL) deliver the contract for the Department for International Trade in Yorkshire and the Humber.