Cotswolds bakery breaks into Japanese market with significant order

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Cotswold-based Huffkins has shipped a large shipment of its fruitcake to Japan, among other goods. Pic: Huffkins
Cotswold-based Huffkins has shipped a large shipment of its fruitcake to Japan, among other goods. Pic: Huffkins

Related tags Japan Exports fruitcakes Department for International Trade Defra

UK bakery Huffkins has finalized its first significant export contract to Japan, with more orders to Australia, Canada and Switzerland already secured well into 2019.

The Cotswold-based bakery, which was established in 1890, shipped a 1.7 tonne order of fruitcakes, shortbread and branded merchandise to Japan.

It secured the export deal after receiving support from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to attend Foodex in Tokyo last year.

According to Natasha Whittaker, head of Wholesale and Export at Huffkins, exporting has been a key element of the company’s strategy.

“The response we got from attending the Foodex was incredible. People were queuing up to get a taste of our goods, and it was clear that Japanese customers were very attracted to the fact that we were a British company offering an authentic product,”​ she said.

Last year, the company opened a pop-up tearoom in luxury department store Isetan, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where it sold more than 12,000 Huffkins scones in six days.

Exporting challenges

Huffkins secured its partnership with a Japanese distributor in October.

“Although there was clearly strong demand, there were still a few barriers we had to address in getting our products on Japanese shelves. For example, Japan has strict quarantine regulations that determine what ingredients can be included in food and drink and require you to list each ingredient’s country of origin,”​ said Whittacker.

“The support of DIT helped us get to Tokyo in the first place, but it also provided us with access to UK government support on the ground in Japan who could assist in co-ordinating with possible buyers and help overcome the language barrier.”

Huffkins’ products are now available in two high-end department stores in Tokyo, as well as online through its Japanese distributor’s website.

In November, its distributor is opening a shop in central Tokyo with a dedicated section for the bakery’s goods.

Scandinavia and EU

Over the next year, the company is looking to expand its exports into Scandinavia and other European markets.

“Exporting isn’t always plain sailing, but with the right knowledge and support, it can be very fruitful,”​ said Whittacker.

Paul Shand, DIT’s head of South West added, “There is currently huge demand for British food and drink overseas, with exports totalling £760m from the South West in the year to March 2018.

“Although the demand is out there, we know that there are a number of challenges that firms have to address.

“DIT has a dedicated team of International Trade Advisers across the South West to support businesses looking to access new markets. We also have a team of experienced sector specialists and an overseas network in 108 countries, who can offer a range of guidance and support, including international market research and enabling contact with buyers and distributors in new markets.”

Huffkins has three tearooms in the South West of England, including two in Cheltenham and one in Stow on the Wold, as well as three further sites in the UK. The company will be opening its sixth tearoom in Cheltenham in October.

Through trade show attendance, it has also secured export orders to Australia, Canada and Switzerland, which will be dispatched later this year.