Case study – Chemoxy go international to create a more robust customer base

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Established in 1868, Chemoxy International is one of Europe’s largest independent contract producers of chemicals. They manufacture products that are used across a range of sectors, such as oil and gas, personal care and coatings. They are based in Middlesbrough, where they have carried out distillation for almost 150 years, and a new expansion was opened in Billingham in 2014.

Chemoxy are a medium-sized enterprise, employing more than 140 highly-skilled people across its two sites. As such they are able to move with the speed of a smaller company, while maintaining the health and safety and environmental standards of a much larger firm.

The UK chemical and pharmaceutical industry is a global leader and exports over £50 billion to the EU alone. Chemoxy is no different, with 60% of its products exported overseas, bringing in around 61% of its annual turnover. They have supplied their goods to the rest of the world for a number of years now, with their ‘Coasol’ coalescent range being their best-selling product. Their success doing so has allowed the company to double its number of employees, while expanding its manufacturing capacity by over 30%. This progress was recognised by the North East of England Process Industry Chamber (NEPIC), who awarded Chemoxy their ‘New to Export’ award in 2012.

They have a large market for their goods in Europe, but have recently experienced very strong growth in the Chinese market, which many smaller UK firms aspire towards. There has been wide interest from China for one type of product in particular — those that reduce the odour of paint, which has not seen as great a demand in both the UK or USA.

Paula Tinkler, Chemoxy’s Commercial Director, said: “Having export markets provides a balance to our sales portfolio, especially when the domestic market weakens or slows down. In addition, different markets present different challenges, particularly in our core area of coatings. Legislation varies between economic zones as do customer preferences and market trends.

“There are many international companies who operate in China, including ourselves, and we have found it very helpful to build and leverage our European relationships. If any other smaller companies are considering an expansion of their prospects to China, I would advise them to choose their distributors wisely, and support them strongly when you do. You cannot distribute across the country with just one agent or partner — you will need many to cover the geography and to make your service very focussed on local needs and trends.”

“Any small company that is thinking of exporting to the Chinese market should put the time in to research how they do business there, as knowing the local customs can help to build a great working relationship that bodes well for the future. Sometimes it’s the little things that can build bridges — for example, we try to visit the country regularly, bringing small or low-cost gifts that reflect British culture when we do. This might be a small gesture, but it creates a great impression and has helped us develop some valuable partnerships.”

Chemoxy International is a great example of a company that has used the export market to its advantage to create a robust intercontinental customer base that can stand up to the ever-changing global business climate. Their success goes to show that there is much value to be found in the overseas market for small to mid-sized enterprises.

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