A Gourmet Launch Party in Singapore

Claire Carter with Joyce Loi Siew Shaun, Executive for Cold Storage at the Frank Dale Foods launch into Cold Storage in Singapore (photograph courtesy of Tim Roebuck).

Frank Dale Foods is an award-winning family business producing in excess of 14 million premium canapés and party foods each year for food service and, more recently, the retail sector. Based in Norfolk, Frank Dale Foods emerged in 1994 from the family’s farm business when it was apparent the demand for their products was greater than could be produced in the family’s kitchen.
Having moved into new, purpose-built premises the Frank Dale Foods management team developed a 5-year growth plan, identifying key channels through which to grow the business. It was clear that export offered excellent growth opportunities for the business.
Desk research indicated that Singapore could be a lucrative market for Frank Dale Foods and was an ideal entry point to the Asia Pacific market, but the business wanted a better understanding of the opportunity and a clear strategy before investing in this potentially exciting new market. Claire Carter, International Business Development Executive for Frank Dale Foods, explained what happened next, “Through an opportune meeting, we were introduced to Rosemary O’Connor, an International Trade Advisor with UKTI, and our export journey began!”
Rosemary invited Claire to the UKTI Explore Export event at Newmarket where she had the opportunity to meet with Commercial Officers from various Asian countries, including Singapore, and also to attend seminars. “This was a major turning point” explained Claire, “The Market Research Overseas seminar featuring the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS) completely opened my eyes to a structured yet straightforward way to undertake research to increase our chances of success.”
UKTI’s EMRS provides professional advice and funding to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate launch strategy and there is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to support individual companies. After the seminar, Claire arranged to talk with Alice Mamier, Research Adviser for the East of England.
“Alice was a fantastic source of support!” exclaimed Claire, “she really helped us conduct our desk research and then guided us to undertake a field trip to understand the Singapore market”. The first stage of the field research was to identify the key decisions Frank Dale Foods needed to make before entering the Singapore market: how should the products be positioned versus the competition, what packaging developments would be required, how to make the necessary changes to abide by the legislation and which route to market should they select – retail, foodservice, wholesale?
Having identified a representative range of people to interview in the market, including: distributors, agents, a trade publication editor, a solicitor, an importer, a retailer, consumers and a representative from AVA Agri Food and Veterinary (similar to DEFRA in the UK) Claire then commissioned the Singaporean Commercial Officers to arrange the meetings on her behalf (through UKTI’s Overseas Market Introductory Service).
In February 2014, Claire spent 10 days in Singapore interviewing this wide range of different people, “I gained a much more complete overview of the market than if I’d simply interviewed some customers or distributors,” she explained. “And the service I received from British Embassy in Singapore was amazing – not only did they arrange the meetings with people who simply would not have responded to my personal contact, they also helped me to plan my travel around the region.”

The results were enlightening. It was clear that all relevant regulatory paperwork would need to be completed thoroughly, “This region is still reeling from the BSE crisis so regulations for all food products are strict. Without the right paperwork our products simply wouldn’t be accepted.” Claire learned how the different retailers are positioned in the market, and it became clear that ‘Cold Storage’ was considered the premium retailer. In addition, there were obvious opportunities for product development, with differing regional tastes and new competing products. “One of the changes we didn’t foresee was to the transparent film window on the packs,” explained Claire. “In the UK climate, these windows show the quality of the products when the consumer picks up the pack. In the hot, humid Singapore environment, we found the film was covered with condensation as soon as it’s taken from the freezer which then drips onto the product and looks unappealing!”
It’s still early days but, since the research, Frank Dale Foods have clarified their offering and price point and have recently launched a comprehensive product range in Singapore with their chosen customer, ‘Cold Storage’, whose stronger price point and positioning was most in line with Frank Dale Foods’ values. This has also led to additional sales in Malaysia and Hong Kong stores.
“The EMRS was an absolutely fantastic opportunity for us to enter a new export market. The whole package of support from UKTI was great, both in the UK and in Singapore, and the support from Alice to drive the research and put me on the right track was superb,” said Claire, “If the EMRS wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done!”

Please follow this link to see how other Companies have benefitted from the EMRS.

Sectors: Food & Drink and Frozen & Chilled Foods
Countries: Far East
Topics: Export Planning, Export Process, Getting Started, and Market Research
Export Action Plan