What Are the Crucial Steps for UK Food Producers to Export Products to New International Markets?

Exporting is an excellent way for UK food producers to grow their business and reach new customers. Whether you are a small company looking to expand your business, or a large corporation seeking to penetrate new markets, exporting can provide unique opportunities. However, exporting to new international markets can be challenging, with different customs, regulations, and market conditions to navigate. This article will guide you through the vital steps you should take to successfully export your products to foreign markets.

Understanding the Market

Before you start exporting your products, it’s essential to understand the different markets you’ll be operating in. Every country has its unique consumer trends, demand, competition, and regulations. Therefore, conducting a comprehensive market research is an essential first step.

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Market research will help you understand the local taste and preferences, identify potential competitors, and find out the pricing strategy that will work best in your target market. You can also identify potential barriers to entry, such as protective tariffs, import regulations, or local customs that could affect how your product is perceived.

Apart from researching the consumer trends, it is equally important to understand the business culture of the foreign market. This will help you build strong relationships with local partners, distributors, and customers.

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Developing an Export Strategy

Once you’ve gathered all necessary information about the market, the next step is to develop a robust export strategy. This strategy should be built around your company’s goals, capabilities, and the identified opportunities in the foreign market.

First, decide on the markets that are best suited for your products. Consider the demand for your products, competitive landscape, and the ease of doing business in these markets.

Next, consider the best entry mode for your business. Will it be more beneficial to establish a local presence through a joint venture or a wholly-owned subsidiary, or will exporting directly to distributors or retailers be more efficient?

Your export strategy should also include a detailed marketing plan. This plan should take into account the marketing channels available in the target market, your product positioning, and the marketing mix that will be most effective.

Product Adaptation

Adapting your products to meet the specific needs and preferences of the foreign market is a crucial aspect of exporting. This might involve changing the packaging to suit local customs, tweaking the ingredients to cater to local taste, or even creating new products specifically for the foreign market.

Product adaptation is about more than just changing the product. It also involves adapting your marketing messages to resonate with the local audience. Understanding the cultural nuances of your target market will be key in this process.

Navigating Customs and Regulatory Compliance

Ensuring that your products meet all the required standards and regulations of the foreign country is another essential step. This involves understanding the import and export regulations, food safety standards, and any other local regulations that might apply to your products.

Navigating customs can be a complex process, involving a lot of paperwork and understanding of the customs procedures. It’s often recommended to work with a customs broker or a freight forwarder who can help you handle all these processes.

Building Relationships

Lastly, building strong relationships with local partners, distributors, and customers is critical to your success in foreign markets. These relationships will help you understand the market better, navigate any challenges, and ultimately sell your products.

Engaging with local trade shows, industry events, and business forums can be a great way to build these relationships. You can also consider hiring local staff who understand the market and can help you navigate the business culture.

Remember, exporting is a long-term commitment, and it requires a thorough planning and strategic approach. By following these steps, you can set your business up for a successful venture into new international markets.

Successful Entry Mode and Joint Venture Options

Getting the entry mode strategy right is paramount to your success in a foreign market. Choose a market entry strategy that aligns with your company’s goals, the nature of your products, and the characteristics of the target market.

Main entry modes include direct exporting, licensing, franchising, joint venture, or establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary. Direct exporting involves sending your products to a foreign market without any intermediaries. This option often yields higher profit margins but requires significant resources and understanding of the foreign market.

Licensing or franchising is another option, allowing a foreign company to produce and sell your products in the target market. This model reduces your risk but also limits your control over the product and potentially your profits.

A joint venture involves partnering with a local company. This partnership can provide valuable knowledge about the local market, shared resources, and increased business size. In the United Kingdom, many food producers have successfully entered foreign markets such as the United States and Northern Ireland through joint ventures.

Finally, a wholly-owned subsidiary entails setting up a new operation in the foreign country. While this option gives you total control, it is also the most resource-intensive. However, tax advisers and accountants in the UK can provide valuable advice on tax issues and business property acquisitions to support companies considering this approach.

Regardless of the entry mode chosen, getting professional advice from trade assistants can help you navigate the complexities of the foreign market, thereby increasing your chances of success.

Obtaining Export Health Certification and Understanding Trade Agreements

Exporting food and drink products to foreign markets often require obtaining an export health certificate. This certification verifies that your products meet the health and safety regulations of the target market. Notably, export health regulations can vary significantly between countries, making it necessary to understand the specific requirements of each target country.

In the United States, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food safety regulations. Therefore, UK food producers seeking to export goods to the United States must understand and comply with FDA rules.

Trade agreements between countries can significantly affect your export business. Such agreements may include provisions that lower tariffs, ease import and export regulations, and provide protections for foreign investors. For instance, the recent trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States has made it easier for UK companies to do business in the US.

Understanding trade agreements can be complex, and for this reason, it is advisable to consult with trade specialists or legal advisors who are familiar with these agreements. They can provide valuable insights into how the agreements might impact your business.


Venturing into new international markets holds immense potential for UK food producers. However, the path to successful market entry can be intricate, requiring careful planning and strategic approach. Factors such as understanding the target market, choosing the right entry mode, abiding by export health regulations, and keeping abreast with relevant trade agreements play significant role.

Remember, the aim is not only to get your products into foreign markets but to thrive sustainably. This goal warrants the development of strong relationships with local partners and customers, the adaptation and positioning of your products to suit the local tastes and preferences, and the use of effective marketing strategies.

By adhering to these steps and investing resources in understanding the intricacies of the foreign market, UK food producers can reap the benefits of internationalization and position themselves for long-term success in new markets.