You might know Fentimans range of drinks from cafes, restaurants and shops around the world, but perhaps you didn’t realise that the quality soft drink manufacturer is based in Hexham, and has grown from a small family business to a globally recognised brand.
Fentimans began life back in 1905, when Thomas Fentiman, an iron puddler from Cleckheaton, decided to set up shop with a unique recipe for ginger beer won from a failed loan repayment. Emblazoned with an image of his prize-winning dog, Fearless, Fentimans’ ginger beer became famous across the North.
These days, the premium adult drink maker has branched out to offer a greater range of adult soft drinks, as well as premium mixers, pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and alcoholic ginger beer. Their popularity has also seen a boost; now exporting to 70 countries, and available on every continent.
“The company growth was slowing as the UK market reached saturation around 2009. In addition, the markets for premium mixers were just opening, linked to the growth of premium spirits like gin.
“Until 2010 Fentimans had been a reactive exporting company, selling its products to just five countries,” explains exporting manager Piero Alberici.
“The proactive plan commenced in the summer of that year and export has grown from less than 5%, to over 35% of company sales in the last 12 months.”
For Piero, the easiest part of exporting is thanks to “the fact that English products have a good reputation worldwide, making them easy to sell to an international market.” However, like with any big move in business, exporting isn’t without its difficulties, as commercial and regulatory barriers exist across all markets.
And things like language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and cultural differences can also cause a few bumps in the road.
“All of these factors have at times created problems.
"In 2015 we fixed a Euro exchange rate with our European customers. Whilst this impacted our percentage margin, it enabled us to keep our consumer prices static and so sales volume growth continued uninterrupted.”
Luckily help was at hand from UKTI, helping the firm to navigate its way into new countries.
Not only has exporting allowed Fentimans to travel and explore the globe, the growth has benefitted the local area, with six new full time jobs being created since 2011.
With plans to reach 80 markets within the next two years, who better to offer advice to budding exporters than Fentimans?
“Ensure you complete a comprehensive assessment of your internal systems and cash flow capacity before embarking on your export journey,” warns Piero.
“Overseas trading introduces new challenges to any business, as well as new rewards.”
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