The United Kingdom (UK) has long played an important role in U.S. agricultural exports. This history dates back to the completion of the Erie Canal in the early 1800s, which linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic seaboard, significantly increasing the export of food, particularly Midwestern wheat, to England.
To this day, the United Kingdom offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. agriculture and the United States exports more than $1.6 billion annually in agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK. Many of these products are showcased each year during USDA-endorsed trade shows, such as the International Food Exhibition (IFE), which took place in London in March.
Nineteen U.S. companies participated in the U.S. Pavilion, including 11 new-to-market and new-to-export companies. Several U.S. companies were lucky enough to meet with the Olympic Organizing Committee that had a team looking for products to be used at the Summer Olympics in London in 2012. The exhibition produced $469,000 in on-site sales and $1.9 million in projected 12-month sales.
During the show, U.S. exhibitors introduced more than 100 new products, ranging from sauces to baby food to ice cream. Delicious sauces are the name of the game for Slather Brand Foods Inc., a new-to-export company who explored export opportunities as part of the U.S. pavilion.
Robin Rhea is the owner of Slather Brand Foods, Inc., based in Charleston, South Carolina. As a Southern U.S. Trade Association (SUSTA) member, she learned about the assistance USDA’s market development programs provide to companies like hers. Ms. Rhea used Market Access Program (MAP) funding in order to participate in this year’s show in London, a first for her company. She credits her attendance at the show with helping her connect with potential exporters and assess the opportunity to sell her product outside of the United States.
“The UK market is definitely ready for Slather Brand Slatherin' Sauce,” said Ms. Rhea. “There is very little competition to speak of in the sauce category. Moreover, the UK is just coming into its own in terms of BBQ and they are hungry for diversified products. In addition to retail markets there was an overwhelming interest in the food service industry and it will top our targeted list when we are ready to export.”
The company plans to continue to expand its domestic reach in the coming year and explore exports as part of its business plan in 2012. The knowledge and contacts Slather Brand Foods gained from attendance at IFE have prepared the company for this venture.
To learn more about market development programs, visit the FAS website.