Suffolk-based company C & K Meats is primed for global growth, having secured overseas orders worth around £100,000 thanks to support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in expanding its business to international markets, primarily Asia.
The company, based in Eye, processes and supplies quality meat products to prestige food service companies, fine dining restaurants, hotels, butchers, wholesalers and farm shops. Brothers Chris and Kevin Burrows, whose family history within the butchery industry dates back 200 years, established the business in 1994 and spent eight years developing their existing 40,000sq ft modern facility in Suffolk. They now employ 100 workers and have a turnover of £18million.
In March 2013 the company was already exporting into Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and Kevin contacted UKTI with a view to expanding into Asia.
International Trade Adviser Stephen Banks explains:
“The UK British meat industry had come under threat as cash-strapped consumers cut their shopping bills. Selling goods overseas, including in Asia where consumers are rapidly developing an appetite for westernised food and drink, became a means of offsetting the stagnant home front.”
“It had became apparent that our quality products would potentially be well received in Asia, but we needed financial assistance and advice to investigate our options further”, says Kevin.
Stephen recommended Kevin sign up for the Passport to Export scheme ‒ a twelve-month programme which provides new or inexperienced exporters with support to grow their business overseas, including help with market research and potentially matched funding for trips and tradeshow opportunities.
UKTI helps Suffolk firm to go-ahead with expansion into the Far East
Through the programme C & K Meats secured a UKTI Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) grant that enabled it to exhibit at HOFEX – the largest food and hospitality trade show in the Asia-Pacific region in Hong Kong, in May 2013.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for C & K Meats to take their quality products to a very wealthy economy where, in 2011, goods worth more than £5bn were traded from the UK,” says Stephen.
As a result of attending HOFEX, C & K Meats has since secured orders worth in the region of £100k and their products are now being carried by a number of five-star hotels, entertainment complexes, airlines and The Hong Kong Club – a prestigious gentleman’s club with a tradition of excellence in food.
“The matched funding enabled us to pay for our flights to Hong Kong” says Kevin, adding: “Meeting potential distributors face-to-face was crucial for our expansion as Asian clients are more inclined to buy from people they have met and feel they can build trusted and honest relationships with. At HOFEX and all other trade shows attended by myself, introductions were regularly made by UKTI representatives. They have excellent market intelligence on potential clients and experience of that local marketplace. This was extremely helpful as without these introductions we may never have met these valuable contacts.”
“Also on return visits after trade shows, UKTI representatives would help set up new meetings with potential customers that we didn’t have the opportunity to engage with during the trade show itself.” commented Kevin.
Following HOFEX, UKTI arranged for C & K Meats to hold a dinner at the British Consul-General’s private residence – hosted by the Consul-General, Caroline Wilson – where they introduced their products to potential customers from the Hong Kong market.
“Whatever the size of a business, our clients have direct access to teams of Commercial Officers in British Embassies throughout the world and this can really speed up the process of international expansion.”
Since attending the exhibition, sales in Asia have shown strong growth and now account for a growing percentage of business. Kevin and Chris are currently exploring additional foreign markets, including Macau, the USA and the Philippines with continued support from UKTI.
Kevin adds: “C & K Meats has been helped throughout its international journey by UKTI, not just with financial assistance, but with contacts in foreign embassies, local knowledge experts, training, advice and regular visits from Stephen, who has always been hugely supportive. UKTI support and planning helps with the detail you don’t know, but also with the obvious things you think you do!”