Here is what you missed: Meet the European food and drink buyers event

ast Tuesday, on the 16th of January, Bolst Global’s full multi-cultural team attended the “Meet the European Food and Drink Buyers” event in Harrogate. The encounter was very successful, many small and medium-sized businesses from the Leeds region came to share their products with fellow entrepreneurs and had an opportunity to meet potential buyers for their unique creations. Networking was the key word of the day, with at the centre of the event the promotion of a free initiative in the Leeds area, Export Exchange (https://www.exportexchange.co.uk/), which Bolst Global proudly supports.

The “Meet the Buyers” event was divided into two spaces. One was a food marketplace where participating businesses had a stand and could let passers-by have a taste of their products. There was a great variety of products, from locally-manufactured gin or delicious traditional Yorkshire pastries, to natural cola or innovative jelly. If you didn’t leave with a full belly, you really missed something, as most if not all of the products were absolutely delicious. For example, I got a chance to taste traditional English chutney and orange marmalade, which for me as a French person was a new experience. Batch Premium Spirits (https://www.batchbrew.co.uk/) offered a tasting of their best gins, with lots of strong and varied flavours. JustJelly (https://www.justjelly.co.uk/) presented its innovative range of jellies, which can be used either while cooking the main course or for dessert or breakfast. Lottie Shaw’s Authentic Taste of Yorkshire (http://www.lottieshaws.co.uk/) offered us amazing traditional Yorkshire pastries as well as gingerbread and flapjack. Northern Bloc’s ice creams (http://northern-bloc.com/) and Just Dessert’s frozen cakes (https://www.just-desserts.co.uk/) were also among the exhibited products. These are just a few examples of all the amazing products this event invited you to savour.

The second part of the event was a one-on-one meeting space where the buyers could chat in private with Yorkshire manufacturers during pre-scheduled twenty-minute meetings. Among the buyers there were for example Jean-Pierre Forestier, a Frenchman who works independently for several big French retailers, Manuel Kaiser, an Austrian working for Scheinkel’s Feinste Delikatessen in Vienna or Daniel Geal, a British expatriate now working in Germany within his own company, the Food Detective. Mr. Kaiser had some very interesting insight on the Austrian market of food and drinks. For example, he shared that it is essential to the comprehension of this particular

National Market to know that there are only two major grocery retailers, Billa and Spar. Apart from these, exporters might want to look for specialised shops, online retailing or partnerships with restaurants depending on the product they are willing to sell. Mr. Kaiser also stressed the necessity to have nutrition facts in German as well as the list of ingredients to enter the Austrian market. However, Mr. Geal explained that unlike in Germany where potential distributors will ask you the UVP (Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung, environmental impact information), Austrian distributors will not require it. What most buyers seemed concerned about was the importance of having clear, quickly-understandable names for the products. Cultural differences and linguistic gaps come into play here, as some words whose meaning might seem obvious to a British manufacturer might not be so to a foreigner.

What this event in Harrogate taught me is that at such events, it is important to stay open-minded and not to focus too much on selling your product, as you can miss valuable pieces of information or opportunities to gain some insight into a particular market or feedback on your product. When meeting a buyer, listen to their opinion on your packaging: maybe they will find it unclear or illegible, maybe the choice of colors will lead them to an unfortunate association. This feedback is valuable because it can reflect the feeling of potential foreign consumers.

Apart from the marketplace and the buyer/manufacturer speed-dating, several interesting presentations were given throughout the day. Victoria Boldison, founding member of Bolst Global Ltd., spoke about the methods of exporting abroad. She stressed the importance of what she called the 3Ps, product, pound and people, when exporting. Indeed, you should think carefully about which products they would like to export; exporting your whole range of products can be very costly and strategically unfortunate. Pricing is a key issue as well: adapting your prices to the competition is essential, and your UK prices are your reference, but if the foreign consumers are willing to pay more than consumers on your domestic market, then by all means take the money! Finally, people are at the heart of exportation, as commerce is a question of building relationships

Do not feel forced to engage in a commercial partnership with a foreign buyer if you do not feel comfortable with them, even though their purchasing price suits your needs. Your subjective appreciation of your business partner is not to be undermined. Additionally, Victoria reminded us all that language barriers do persist although English has become a global lingua franca. When writing a professional email, avoid colloquial phrases or very informal talk. The UK has a relaxed, informal, business correspondence but other countries value a higher level of formality. Just on the other side of the Channel, your French business partners will generally not appreciate you starting an email by just saying “Hello” and calling them by their first name. The Germans and the Austrians will also appreciate very formal emails. Further away, in the Gulf, formality is even more important and a certain level of deference might even be expected.

Finally, this event was highly beneficial to the Export Exchange European-funded initiative efficiently promoted by our team at Bolst Global. This initiative aims at putting into contact exporters, manufacturers, transporters and government employees in the Leeds area to facilitate the international expansion of the Made in Yorkshire. We organise networking events amongst other things to help you and your business have the keys to invade foreign markets with your amazing products.

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