Exports of small food producers – challenges and opportunities

What are the challenges and opportunities for small food producers to develop exports?

One main barrier of course is the money, as exports require a minimum budget, independently from the size of a company. Many costs are not elastic, which means that the financial burden for a small company is very high.

But, it is not just about the money. For a small company even offering great products it is very difficult to get attention of buyers and become listed.

What are the most common mistakes small producers make?

I would point out two main issues: persistence and patience. The development of new partnerships cannot be achieved with few tries and in short time. As I like to say, a “No” from a buyer very often is not the end, but the beginning of the communication.

Keep in mind that in all product categories there is huge competition and buyers are overwhelmed by product propositions every day. All producers claim to have great products, so this is not the pitch which will lead to success.

What is a realistic time horizon for getting results in exports?

It depends on lot of factors as which market you want to develop, the channel and the unique selling points of your products. Export development is a matter of systematic efforts for years. Companies never stop to invest in developing their business in their home market, but surprisingly they expect to achieve exports within few months. This is not realistic.

Emmanouel Margaritis, born 1965 in Dortmund, Germany, has studied at RWTH Aachen business administration and marketing and has worked for international companies in different industries. He is one of the founding partners of Blueschild Consulting an international export consultancy, managing many export development projects at international level. Since 2019 he is CEO of Global Food World.

Are exhibitions a good investment for small food companies to develop their exports?

My answer is a clear No. Waiting in a small booth for buyers to step by is an illusion. No buyer will come. They are an opportunity for exhibitors to meet their business partners, not to search for new suppliers. They have not time for that during a trade fair. If you want to meet a potential buyer during a trade fair you have to attract him many months before and get on in his meeting agenda.

Trade fairs have an decreasing output and you see that in many industries major, international fairs are even closing.

Though many producers we are talking to still feel happy about spending a lot of money, returning with many business cards finding out after months that the final results have been marginal.

There are smarter, cheaper and more efficient ways to develop your exports.

What are the more efficient ways?

A personal approach and a strong pitch.

Generic campaigns are not producing any result. A producer has to do his homework, by researching buyers fitting to his products one by one, identifying in a next step the relevant contact person, starting a personal approach and be ready to make a short, strong pitch. In reality you have only few seconds when starting a communication to explain why a buyer should consider on your products. Many producers are not sufficiently prepared and present just another good product. Again, this claim is not enough!

If not a good product, what else?

You have to focus on the real unique selling points. People are looking for more healthy, authentic, story-telling products. A producer should be able to communicate how his products are meeting these trends. Another important point is that buyers are evaluating aspects beyond of product specifications like lead times and flexibility for customisation.

Are new trends in food & beverages an opportunity for small producers?

Only theoretically, as buyers still don’t want to deal with many small producers day by day. This means that for a small producer the chances to get listed remain limited. This market paradox was for us the reason to develop the Global Food World project.

What is the Global Food World concept about?

Global Food World is offering significant benefits to both, producers and buyers. Producers can develop exports with a small subscription instead of huge budgets and become part of a strong, selective and international portfolio. Buyers on the other hand, have access to a variety of selective products, dealing with one partner. So, Global Food World is not a promotion portal, but a innovative facilitator solving real operational barriers on both sides of the food business.

How do you select producers for your portfolio?

Of course we are looking for products, which are fitting to our concept of high quality, authentic and story-telling products. But even more important for us is the commitment of producers. We are not interested in producers, who are looking for quick-shot business, but for partners understanding the challenges and willing to improve themselves step by step meeting the requirements of our B2B customers. It takes months and years to open a door to a strong buyer, but only seconds to close it for good. So we are not in a wrong rush and we expect our producers to share our vision for sustainable cooperations.

We have talked about the barriers for small producers, what about their strengths?

For me the most important strength of our producers is the fact that they are not managers doing a job. All of them are family-owned businesses producing products they really love and care about. We have many producers in our portfolio which are new companies started with passion to create innovative and well-designed products. We don’t want to argue with buyers about a cent more or less, but to convince them with great, unique products. This is what Global Food World is about.

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