With international travel not a viable option at the moment due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Welsh food and drink companies are embracing the new way of doing business virtually.
With the largest uptake of producers signed up to its virtual Trade Development Visit programme, the Welsh Government is supporting twenty five members of its Export Club to attend two virtual Trade Development Visit’s targeting Switzerland and Canada in February and March.
The virtual Trade Development Visit’s provide producers with a unique opportunity to make connections with prospective buyers, distributors and importers in a fraction of the time a physical Trade Development Visit demands.
Each participating company has a detailed itinerary of scheduled one to one calls with an in-market partner, followed by a market briefing and one to one meetings with pre-qualified buyers, importers and distributors, all done via video conference facilities.
Asher Flowers, Founder of artisan preserve company Rogue, located in South Wales is one producer taking part in both virtual visits,
“Over the past year we’ve invested significantly into the rebrand of Rogue and the long term strategy of the brand. The opportunity through Welsh Government is incredible as we are able to evolve even further. Export has always been a massive ambition for the business and we’re excited to build trade links with Switzerland & Canada. Our focus will be on speciality wholesale and independents and we’re confident there’s a real appetite for Rogue.”
Export is particularly important for the Welsh hospitality industry at the moment in such challenging times and Russ Honeyman, Commercial Director for Monty’s Brewery in Powys sees these two virtual Trade Development visits as vital for the business,
“This is a great opportunity to expand our export opportunities. In these tough times in the home market with pubs and bars closed, by participating in a virtual Trade Development Visit we can get our products in front of other markets without the need to travel. It is a new way of doing business abroad and I am looking forward to seeing the results”.
Andy Mallows, Managing Director of Hensol Castle Distillery in the Vale of Glamorgan is another who is hopeful of discovering new export links,
“These are exciting times for the Welsh food and drink industry with a stream of new and innovative products coming to market and we at Hensol Castle Distillery are proud to play our part in helping Wales firmly establish itself on the world food and drinks stage.
“We already export to Australasia and future export target markets include North America, Argentina, Japan and selected European countries. Diaspora has resulted in Welsh people now working and living globally and through initiatives like the Welsh Government’s Trade Development Visit programme we hope to bring a taste of Wales to the world.”
The UK has signed a trade agreement with Switzerland, while the UK-Canada trade deal will secure tariff-free trading on 98% of goods.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:
“The Welsh food and drink sector has reacted to the current crisis with a characteristically innovative spirit, and a readiness to take advantage of new ways of working.
“During the global Covid-19 pandemic, international travel has become less and less of a practical option for our exporters – however, our virtual Trade Development Visit programme has posed an increasingly attractive alternative for companies who may have to physically stay in their home countries, but are still determined to highlight their products to international audiences.
“As such, I am very pleased to note the Welsh Government’s support for businesses via the recent TDVs, and we will continue to support others in the sector to do the same in future.
Switzerland is the UK’s eight largest export market and one of the UK’s closest trading partners. The total trade between the UK and Canada was worth £19.9 billion in the four quarters to end of the first quarter of 2020.
A number of companies are participating in both trade development visits. Welsh companies looking for new export opportunities include Rogue, The Lobster Pot, Halen Môn – Anglesey Sea Salt, Monty’s Brewery, Hensol Castle Distillery, Boss Brewing, Castle Dairies, Clydach Farm, Henllan Bakery, CK Foods, Penderyn, Cradoc’s Savoury Biscuits, Dairy Partners, Volac, Calon Wen and SamosaCo.
The Welsh Government has supported three other virtual Trade Development Visits this financial year so far - Australia and New Zealand, Nordics and UAE, which has resulted in new partnerships and sales for Welsh food and drink companies.
Previously Welsh food and drink companies, with the support of the Welsh Government, would have travelled to these countries to meet face to face with buyers and distributors for market briefings, sampling, networking opportunities and store visits.
Unlocking new markets brings even greater opportunities for these businesses to not only showcase their quality produce around the world, but also generate more revenue and increase profits.