If you’re considering growing your business internationally, there’s never a “safe bet” when it comes to timing, but ensuring you’ve ticked the right boxes definitely helps.
When getting ‘export-ready’, research is the first step and is also an ongoing process.
It’s how you find out if the country you’d like to receive your goods will trade with you at all, and who you need to get approval from to get the ball rolling.
It’s how you know what certifications you need to get to be successful in the receiving country, and gauge a market interest or gap for your product.
And it’s how you balance the risk and make sure that the investment you’ll make to see your product go international is worthwhile.
“Do your research. There’s a wealth of information available online and once you contact the various industry bodies, there seems to be no end to the amount of resource material that’s available to you,” says Sean Garlick, managing director of Garlo’s Pies.
“I remember printing out pages and pages of requirements and reading them and trying to ingest them all. It wasn’t until we engaged a consultant that it put it all in perspective and you sort of get an idea of what it’s going to cost, as well.”
DIY, or call in an expert?
Once you’ve done some research, the next step to getting export-ready is deciding whether or not to bring on a consultant.
“Right at the start we acknowledged that there’s a whole lot we don’t know anything about and so we engaged a consultant…though it comes at a cost,” Garlick says.
“You either learn it for yourself or you pay for someone to come in and teach you. It all depends on how much time you’ve got and how quickly you want to get it done.
“It’s probably the first step [getting a consultant] because you need to get your premises right and you need to find out if you premises is ever going to be right and what the cost is to get it right and then your processes, whether you have the budget to be able to employ the people that you need to, in order to be on top of it every step of the way.
“It’s not just to ensure that you do it right, but you’ve got to demonstrate that you’ve done it right, you’ve got to be able to show through your record that every single aspect of your production, of your receival, your production, your dispatch has all been at the right temperatures, according to the right plan that’s been written and it’s all auditable.”
Resources – have you got what it takes?
Before a business can even consider export, they have to ensure they have the resources to meet demand. Your facility needs to have the capacity, meet the requirements of export and the requirements of the receiving country.
“It came at a time where we were contemplating building new premises anyway; we were bursting at the seams at our old place and we figured the new place was going to be built from scratch so we might as well make it compliant with the regulations of having a meat export licence,” says Garlick.
“There are some facilities that just don’t comply. For example, the whole drainage system of your premises has to be separated from your raw goods to your finished goods, so if you were to get a break out of listeria or something like that, it can’t be transmitted from raw ingredients to finished goods. It’s about the complete isolation of your staff from the various sections of your facility. It’s about constant monitoring and recording of all your temperatures and your cook-chill processes. It’s basically drilling down every conceivable opportunity for contamination, which far exceeds HACCP.”
Many manufacturers are prompted into export by inquiries, but ensuring inquiries turn into business deals is all about getting involved. You’ve got to get people talking and get talking to the right people.
Garlo’s Pies started the conversation by attending an international trade show and giving out pies for five days straight.
Chobani Australia managing director, Peter Meek, says the best advice for manufacturers looking to export is to “get started.”
“You can over research it and worry about if you’ve got it right, but you’ve really got to get into the market and talk to the distributors and they’ll help you craft what you need to do to enter those markets.”
Above: Chobani's Australian facility
Coconut yoghurt and ice cream manufacturer CO YO currently exports to New Zealand and recently won the Richard Joel Award for Emerging Exporter of the Year at the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards.
CO YO co-founder and director, Henry Gosling, does a lot of the ground work himself.
“You’re the one with the passion and you know how to sell it, you know how to promote it and you know how to talk to people about it,” Gosling says.
“If you’re a small little business like ours, you need to get really personal, and the only way to do that is to go and do the work yourself.”
Matching product to market
So you’ve got your facility, and all the necessary paperwork – but is your product right for the market?
Mitchell Taylor, managing director of Taylor’s Wines says a manufacturer looking to export has to make sure they’ve “got a high quality product that deserves to be exported.”
“You don’t want to be going over there with a product that doesn’t stand out, you need to have something that is unique, and something that reflects the regionality and tells a good story…It’s not a quick sell. You don’t enter the market and walk away, you’ve got to invest a lot of time in continually going back there and revisiting the market and making sure that you start to build some of those relationships.”
Above: Mitchell Taylor
Although there may be international interest in your product, some small tweaks may help its success, or perhaps even be essential before exporting can commence.
For Garlo’s Pies, it was knowing that it’s illegal to import poppy seeds into the UAE.
“We used to decorate the top of our pies with poppy seeds for certain flavours. It’s about knowing those sort of individual country requirements that can be a deal breaker,” Garlick says.
Chobani Australia recently entered into the Singaporean and Malaysian markets.
Peter Meek says Chobani’s initial strategy in these new markets is to use existing flavours.
“It’s fascinating if you go into Malaysia and Singapore, the top flavour in both of those markets is still Strawberry. So while the palettes are very different within this category, certainly a lot of the flavoured products that we’ve already got are absolutely relevant to them so we don’t want to introduce any complexity in the first stages, but in the longer term and as the markets reach a critical mass of course, we will look to localise flavours and bring local propositions to them.”
Doing it differently
Going internationally does not always mean you have to export.
CO YO sells the licence to manufacturer to overseas interested parties and then helps them set up production units.
Gosling says CO YO has a simple formula after getting an international inquiry to distribute.
After initial contact, Gosling passes the inquiry onto a consultant, who communicates with the interested party, answers any of their questions and sends them a contract. From there, the CO YO co-founders (Henry and Sandra Gosling), the consultant and the interested party will have a Skype session, after which, the Goslings may fly overseas and have a face-to-face meeting. If CO YO decides the interested party is suitable, they will charge them a licence. In the case of the US, CO YO sent a duplicate of its Yandina manufacturing plant to the manufacturers in New Mexico. They also sent their yogurt maker for the installation of the plant, and to give assistance and advice on how to set up and begin manufacturing. From then on, CO YO is in communication with the new manufacturers on a regular basis.
Above: CO YO's mixed berry coconut milk yoghurt alternative.
CO YO began exporting to New Zealand as a way to “test the waters”.
“The New Zealand market was a toe in the water, that’s why we set up our own company and thought ‘well let’s give it a go and see whether there is a market for this product,’ because we want people [who buy a licence] to succeed, we weren’t too sure whether there was in fact a market for our product,” Gosling says.
“At some stage, that operation in New Zealand will be sold off as a licence, but at the moment, it’s been going now for 12 months, we had a record shipment, just last week and it’s going extremely well.”
Export consumes time, money and requires a strong managerial commitment, but if executed correctly, it can be a great opportunity to grow your business to new heights.
So do the research, crunch the numbers and make the right decision for your business.