Ahead of our virtual US trade mission with OCO Global, we spoke with Suzanne Skerry from Cornish Sea Salt to get her key tips for export success.
No matter the size of your business, exporting internationally can be a considerable growth step that involves a significant number of challenges – from deciding where to sell, choosing the right route to market, calculating export pricing, currency risk, , labelling, shipping, export documentation, managing distributor relationships, and trademarks. And when you’re exporting to the US, these challenges are scaled further. Each state has its own market trends and traditions that can make navigating the country even more difficult.
With our virtual US food and beverage trade mission with OCO Global just around the corner, we wanted to offer some advice from an export veteran: Suzanne Skerry, Group Sales Director at Cornish Sea Salt.
Cornish Sea Salt started as a simple idea to revive Cornwall’s salt trade and quickly grew into an internationally recognised brand that exports to 33 countries worldwide. After nine years of helping the company expand its export footprint, Suzanne is now working on exporting its products to the US – and she has some compelling advice for brands looking to do the same:
Identify the markets with a little desk research – culture, economic growth rate, consumption/import figures of similar products.
It may sound like obvious advice, but it’s critical you spend time researching the market you’re visiting in advance. Your research should cover key points like what the legal requirements are to sell your product in the country, how saturated your target market is – research the competition, research pricing, understand if tariffs exist, are there specific labeling or shelf-life requirements, look into shipping costs and what type of export /shipping documentation is required.
If you have all this information prepared beforehand, you’ll be able to focus on meeting potential partners and securing new opportunities while you’re on the trade mission.
You may need to adapt your packaging label or product for the market you’re exporting to, based on regulations.
“It’s also a good idea to adapt your packaging to the country’s native language before you visit – so you’ll have a fully mocked-up product to showcase at any events. This can also be a sticker.
Before you join any trade mission, it’s important you are “export ready” – have you done your research? Is there a real opportunity for your product in the market – is it in retail or food service – or both? Carry out competitor research and look at your export pricing strategy for that market. Investigate specific requirements in the target market with regard to labeling, tariffs, export documentation required etc.. You’ll need to choose your route to market, identify key distributors you would like to work with, understand potential shipping costs for exporting your product, whether retailers expect listing fees, and are their promotional support requirements.
Some US retailers may even expect you to offer a free case fill – one free case of your product for each of their stores – so if it’s a large retailer with hundreds of stores, you may need to take a loss on large volumes of your product.
There’s always a temptation to accept the first offer you receive from a distributor or retail partner, but it’ll pay off in the long run if you do your research first before jumping in too soon to exclusivity contracts. Look at the brands they work with, ask around, see who their customers are, and consider whether they’ll help you meet your export goals.
When our team first exported to the US, we got it wrong – we started selling to one of the largest retail chains through a distributor we didn’t really know. We found ourselves being asked to repay huge distribution and warehouse charges and costs escalated – as a consequence, we fell out with our distributor. This time around we are taking it slowly, we have a new distribution partner who is taking each region step by step. He is communicating regularly and we are working on the market strategy together. When we started we had total visibility of the supply chain and costs upfront.
If you’d like to hear more about Cornish Sea Salt’s export success you can read the case study here.
To find out about our upcoming ‘Trade without Travel’ virtual trade missions, visit our export page.
Find out how Cornwall Trade and Investment can help your business.
Whether you’re looking to locate in Cornwall, or to start exporting beyond its borders, get in touch with our friendly team to talk through your needs.