500 profiles and only just getting started!

We've reached 500 profiles on the Great British Food Programme directory!

Last month the Great British Food Programme passed a significant milestone; the online directory now boasts over 500 UK food and drink producer profiles in the UK’s largest directory of its kind where international buyers, agents and distributors from all corners of the world continue to source the very best of British produce.

Since its official launch in 2017, the Great British Food Programme has been successfully supporting food and drink producers from across the South West of England to grow their exports. The region’s growth in this sector owes a lot to the programme’s forward-thinking, dynamic events and initiatives. Now open to producers across the whole of the UK, the Great British Food Programme continues to grow in popularity month-on-month and a recent surge in sign-ups resulted in the 500 profiles milestone being reached.  Plans are in place and over the next 12 months, we intend to grow this number to 1,000 and beyond!

In celebration of the programme’s latest achievement, we thought we’d look back on some of the landmark moments and achievements that have helped shape its success over the last few years.

The launch of a pioneering online directory

Back in 2016, many international food and drink buyers were discouraged by how difficult it was to source and compare quality British brands at the touch of a button if they were unable to travel or attend a trade show – so the idea was born! The Great British Food Programme team set about building an online directory that would one day be the home to the best range of British food and drink products found anywhere in the network.

The directory launched in beta mode in late 2016 (originally under the name – FoodEx South West) with over 75 UK food and drink producers spanning several different categories.  Each producer profile page showcased the company’s top-performing products, its core values and countries of interest; it essentially gave UK companies the chance to pitch their brand to an overseas audience from the comfort of their own office. International buyers, agents and distributors loved how the platform finally provided what they’d been eager to source, and it wasn’t long before the first connections were made, and overseas sales were agreed as a result of the online interaction.

Fast forward to the present day and the Great British Food Programme directory is now home to over 500 producers and 1,800 individual products from all parts of the UK. With daily visits from trade officers, agents, distributors and buyers from across the globe, a UK food and drink producer can benefit from potentially receiving a message alert from the website at any hour.

The world’s current COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated plans to improve the directory even further as we look to help fill the void of international travel bans and a shutdown of global trade shows. In early 2021, the Great British Food Programme team are planning to introduce the next stage of development which will see new functionality and an improved user experience for the online directory, so watch this space!

The UK’s biggest ever Meet the Buyer event

During the summer of 2019, after hosting many smaller and successful events across the South West of England, the Great British Food Programme team embarked on plans to host the first-ever national ‘Meet the Buyer’ event that would see 100s of companies from across the UK taking part.

The Great British Food Showcase, held in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT), took place in October 2019 at the world-famous Belfry Hotel and Resort just outside of Birmingham. 50 international buyers, from 21 different countries across Europe and the Rest of the World were invited to take part in over 600 meetings with UK producers all in one day. Hundreds of new connections were made, deals were agreed, and several more sales have been confirmed since the showcase took place.

September 2020 was another significant moment when the GBFP team hosted the UK’s largest virtual ‘Meet the Market Expert’ event; over 50 in-market DIT Trade Officers, Overseas Trade Partners and Chamber representatives were able to offer advice and support via 1-2-1 appointments with over 80 South West of England food and drink producers. The goal is to connect the producers with buyers and distributors in their respective markets where there is opportunity, the day ended with over 450 meetings taking place and was considered a huge success.

Boxing up export opportunities

In early 2019, The Great British Food Box initiative was developed to make it easier for international buyers to sample quality UK food and drink produce, with the long-term aim of further progressing British exports. Buyers simply browse the directory, select their favourite brands and request for samples to be delivered to them in market.

Once a box has been received by the overseas buyer, follow-up sales phone calls are arranged by the Great British Food Programme team in order for each UK producer to further showcase and highlight the qualities of their products to the buyer; saving both parties significant time and money compared to traditional sales channels.

Over 75 boxes have been sent out since launch, with lots of positive feedback from buyers and many confirmed sales from UK producers.

Following the Food Box success, we launched the Great British Spirits Box which allows international alcohol buyers to select 24 different UK gins, vodkas and other spirits to sample. There are also plans in place to roll out this initiative to further sub-sectors that include beer and wine.

International market visits with a twist

Since its launch, the Great British Food Programme has taken UK food and drink producers around the world to meet with 100’s of overseas buyers, agents, distributors and trade officers. Destinations have included China, Germany, Dubai and the Kingdom of Bahrain to name just a few.

But these aren’t just your typical market visits, each event sees the team collaborate with in-market partners to set up dedicated ‘British Food and Drink’ in-store promotions in leading supermarkets, retailers and multipliers. Ultimately giving UK producers a valuable launchpad into the new market.

Usually accompanied on the market visits by the Great British Food Programme lead, Paul Abley, UK producers are always pre-prepared and guided through each market’s cultural differences, buying habits and the do’s and don’ts in meeting etiquette.

A market visit major success story is Granny Gothard’s trip to Bahrain, the Somerset based ice cream producer secured an order worth up to £200,000 a year to sell their frozen delights in the desert, with the potential to grow over the next five years.

Future plans…

The Great British Food Programme is not stopping at 500 profiles and has grand plans for 2021 and beyond. On top of an unrivalled programme of virtual events and activities there will be market visits and in-store promotions to the likes of Thailand, India and the UAE; as well as the launch of a dedicated WeChat store in China.

The mission today remains the same as it did from day one, to showcase the very best of UK food and drink produce to a network of trusted international buyers who are hungry to buy British. Next stop being 1,000 profiles and £100m+ worth of sales for UK companies!