Creating a safe range of products for even the most severe allergy sufferers was the vision of entrepreneur Julianne Ponan, who herself has anaphylaxis and severe allergies.
In 2012, she established Creative Nature Superfoods, which has grown into an award-winning free-from, vegan and wellness UK food brand exporting to 14 countries. The brand offers a range of healthier treats, baking mixes and superfoods that are free from gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and sweeteners.
For the Surrey-based company, the UK’s departure from the EU has seen it re-think its business outlook.
“Brexit has pushed us to change our strategy and expand to new markets. We’re working in the Middle East, Australia and hopefully soon the USA. Our aim was to embrace change and work with it and not against it. In fact, we’ve always had this outlook from the early stages of the business,” Ponan told BakeryandSnacks.
Her advice to others in the SME sector is to remain open to adapting and to not be afraid to change and flex.
“We all get stuck in our thinking of how things should be done, it's about being a bit more open minded to new practices. Also, I would encourage businesses to look to new markets, the whole world is out there.”
For Creative Nature, preparing for the UK’s new free trade agreement with the EU and adapting to the new rules has been imperative to keeping business moving. By accessing the support available on gov.uk and investing time to understand the new rules, Ponan is ready to seize the opportunities of 2021 and beyond.
The nationality of a product
One of the main adaptations she had to make was around the new Rules of Origin, which relate to the ‘nationality’ of a product and require companies to prove that their products are compliant.
“We got a lot of information on this key area from the Department for International Trade," said Ponan.
"It initially seemed complicated because there is a big difference between products, based on different ingredients, but with the information available from the government, the process actually turned out to be easy to follow. Don’t put off doing this for fear that it’s overly complex.”
Under the new rules for businesses exporting to Europe, it is important for them to understand who in their supply chain is responsible for declarations, VAT and duties.
Ponan added, “We had help from our accountancy firm. We had to choose whether it was better that we pay the customs duty or that the customer pays the other side. We chose the latter and made changes on the website to communicate this to our customers. We’ve found that if you are upfront with your customers and transparent, they purchase from you in the full knowledge of the cost and there are no hidden ‘surprises’ for them. They are then making an educated purchase.
“Although not ideal, this is the same process when buying something from the USA, for instance – we know that there will be additional costs to us if we purchase their products. We accept that as part of the transaction at the outset. It’s something that customers will get used to.”
Overall, the nine-strong company feels very positive about the future.
“The last year has been difficult, Covid impacted our business a lot because we have a snacking product, and on-the-go food wasn’t in demand with the world’s new lockdown lifestyle. However, as a small business we are able to adapt and change quickly and still were able to grow by 20-25% overall and over 1000% via Amazon.
“In terms of support, there is a lot of good guidance coming from the Federation of Small Businesses and the Chambers of Commerce. There is also a lot of information on gov.uk, too. While it can feel the amount of information can be daunting, once you spend some time on the website it becomes easy to navigate,” said Ponan.
Are you ready?
To continue trading with the EU, businesses need to follow new rules for importing and exporting, including changes to customs processes and licensing.
Speak with your lawyer and accountant for more information, or answer questions using the checker tool on gov.uk/transition to generate information tailored to your business, and to sign up for email updates.
- The site features on-demand videos to help businesses adapt to the new rules. Searchable by sector, businesses can find out more about 18 topics that may affect them.
- Check that your goods comply with rules of origin and that you have the required evidence to trade tariff-free with the EU.
- Businesses need to take action to access zero tariffs in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. They must check that their goods comply with rules of origin requirements, make a declaration, and ensure they have the correct evidence if they wish to claim preferential tariff rates when trading with the EU.
- Make sure you understand who in your supply chain is responsible for declarations, VAT and duties.
- When trading across borders, make sure you understand who in your supply chain is responsible for declarations, VAT and duties.
- If you move goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, make sure you comply with the latest Northern Ireland Protocol guidance.