If you’re an Asian food manufacturer and you’re doing well domestically, chances are you’ve started thinking about growing your business overseas. You want to start exporting your products.
There are several reasons why companies want to export their products. Among those reasons is the opportunity to increase sales.
Unfortunately, the prospect of more sales and more profits can lead to hasty decisions that may end up costing you.
Outlined below are just a few considerations every Asian food manufacturer should think about before diving into new markets.
Do your research
Your strategy might be to export to fellow Asian countries first. Or maybe you’ve set your sights further. You’re eyeing the EU, Canada, or Australia as potential markets for your food product.
As W. Edwards Deming’s said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”
So wherever you plan to start growing your presence, your first step should be to do your research. Because if there are no customers, there is no business.
When you’re choosing a market, make sure you use the appropriate criteria in your decision making. Among others, you’ll want to research the following points before you start exporting:
- Is there a demand for your type of product?
- How large is the potential market?
- Who are your potential customers?
- How much of that market can you realistically capture?
- How competitive is the market and who are your competitors?
- What are the price points for your type of products?
- Are there preferred routes to market and ways of purchasing these products?
- What are the import duties?
- What are the import regulations and requirements?
- Are you compliant with food hygiene and safety requirements?
- How will exchange rates impact business?
- How about the supply chain and logistics?
Pick and choose your products
While it might be tempting to ship off all your best sellers, keep in mind that not every one of your cherished products will have a market overseas.
To minimize the potential for losses, be selective about the products you choose to export. Pick those that have the greatest appeal and therefore the highest likelihood of success in the country you want to export to.
Attend relevant trade fairs
If your budget permits, look into relevant trade fairs to attend. Trade fairs often require a substantial investment in the form of participation costs, booth costs, marketing materials, and travel costs. But they can be a great way for you to meet potential partners, advertise to your target market, interact with potential local buyers (if the fair is open to the general public), and create awareness for your brand.
Find import / export partners
You might decide that it’s easier and more efficient to work with import / export partners than to start exporting independently.
If that is the case, you have several ways of finding such partners.
- Attend relevant expos and use the chance to network.
- Visit government websites such as those for the department of trade or customs. You might be able to find a list of registered importers.
- Go through the yellow pages and peruse online listings for potential contacts that you can reach out to.
- Take a look at classified or wanted ads that can be found in newspapers or on trade websites.
- Do your research the analog way. Whenever you’re traveling overseas, pop into a local supermarket. Imported products are labelled with the importer’s name and address.
You don’t have to be the one doing all the searching. Make it easy for potential import partners to find you. This is where having a website with well-written copy gives you an advantage.
An effective website helps you be found and gives potential partners enough information to reach a decision about contacting you.
Customize your products
In some cases, it might be necessary – or more prudent – to customize your product for its new market.
Some markets, for example, might have a preference for bulk sizes. Or let’s say your tasty treat contains food colourings. While some of these may be approved by food authorities in your country, they may not be approved in the country you’re exporting to.
Before you start exporting, get your packaging export ready
While it’s important for your packaging to be eye-catching, getting your product ready for export means a lot more than simply having a stunning, stand-out design.
It means making sure your packaging meets regulatory requirements in the country you’re exporting to.
- In some markets, the materials that come into contact with food, known as “food contact materials and articles”, are regulated—that includes the materials used in food packaging. Make sure that the plastic materials and articles you use in your food packaging meet the required standards.
- To ensure that consumers make informed purchases, your food product will need to have compliant labelling and nutritional information. This includes proper ingredients lists, mandatory allergen information, nutrition information, country of origin for certain products, etc. It is your responsibility to be aware of and follow these requirements.
- There may also be language considerations. Such is the case for products bound for Canada where you are required to have bilingual labelling. That is, you must provide information in both official languages, i.e. English and French.
Once your packaging is compliant, you have to turn your attention to the packaging’s marketability. All your effort will be for nothing if your product doesn’t sell.
How do you avoid this?
Attention-grabbing packaging is important but when a consumer takes a closer look (when he compares his options), it’s the text that will ultimately convince him to give your product a try.
Put simply: Persuasive copy is what lands your product in the consumer’s shopping cart.
Prepare your website for your new market
Your website is your virtual calling card and your window to the world. It’s also how potential customers and partners, like importers in new markets, will find you. Don’t disappoint with confusing, lacking, or ineffective copy.
- Offering your website in multiple languages will be difficult to manage if you don’t have someone who can oversee those pages and keep them up to date. Start with a stellar English-language version of your homepage.
- Give your target audience the information they want and need to make a decision about choosing your product.
- Don’t forget to incorporate relevant search keywords into your website’s copy.
A well-designed website with quality content will serve you well and give you a head start over the competition.
Don’t forget to make a profit
Is it even possible to forget about making a profit? Funnily enough, yes – especially if it’s your first time exporting.
That’s because those who are new to exporting may rush into signing contracts before they’ve fully understood what exporting entails. They’ll charge ahead without knowing all the regulations, the changes they need to make, or even how and when they’ll get paid. Will it be cash-in-advance, on consignment, open account, or some other payment method?
You’ll want to make sure you’ve factored the following aspects into your pricing before you start exporting:
- Shipping costs
- Import duties
- The costs associated with ensuring compliance (meeting requirements)
- Payments to middlemen / partners
- The additional costs you’ve invested into adjusting your packaging
Entering new markets is exciting but it also requires a lot of work. Get the basics right and you are already a step ahead of your local competition!