Trade policy is going to change significantly over the next few years, as the UK negotiates the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU and establishes new deals and alliances.
Inevitably, this will lead to a changed relationship with our former European partners and it’s no secret that the government places a great priority on a free trade deal with the US.
Beyond that, there has been much talk of the same sort of arrangements with Australia, New Zealand and possibly even members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
How will this affect UK industries?
The question on many business’s minds is how this will affect the UK food industry – especially those brands that have so far relied on domestic sales and strong ties with European export partners.
However, fellow entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry should remain optimistic, harnessing the power of ‘Brand Britain’ for the foreseeable and exploring those opportunities that exist outside of the bloc.
‘Brand Britain’ denotes the integral value of produce of British origin. London is now one of the best cities in the world for restaurants, and our country has one of the most innovative food cultures at a grocer-to-grocery manufacturer level that I’ve seen in the world.
Local consumers in places like Asia and Africa, who have a more cosmopolitan outlook and a bit more spending power, are often familiar with British brands and products from their travels and are willing to experiment.
They also speak English; an advantage as English is the language of the world now, so our products automatically have an advantage over those coming out of Germany and France and Spain.
Britain has become a trusted provider of high-quality, aspirational goods and services – and this cachet can generate an impressive price differential. Indeed, a 2018 Barclays study reported that emerging markets have the most positive attitude to British products; with the four countries that have the most favourable, as defined by the premium customers will pay on a range of products, being China, India, UAE and South Africa.
For these reasons, I have long valued trade beyond the ‘comfort zone’ of the EU. Ramsden International positioned away from it some time ago, reversing an original 75/25 split in its favour over the rest of the world.
For SMEs that are considering exporting their products beyond the EU as I have done, I would implore them to ask; “Is now a good time to start exporting?”.
I have seen many small businesses trying to export before they have a strong base of domestic sales and ultimately, as the fifth largest economy, it is still easier to sell something in the UK. This, of course, applies in the reverse; just as some companies try to export too quickly, other SMEs miss the boat and end up making the move too late.
Ensure you research the markets, find the one that will likely work best for your product and business and respond to opportunities as you see them, developing an agile approach to export that fits your business.
The best “brand Britain”
Avoiding limitations is key to harnessing ‘Brand Britain’ in international food and drink exports, along with a considered approach to making connections.
As time goes on and post-Brexit trade agreements become clearer, so will opportunities for SMEs in the industry to carve their own path in new territories. Those who wish to grow through their international trading adventure should take heart that while the EU door may not be wide open anymore, many others can be unlocked.