Sheffield ice cream producer, Yee Kwan
Sheffield ice cream producer, Yee Kwan.
Nick Hill

Dragons' Den ice cream producer set to double export sales with new international markets

A Sheffield-based producer of ice cream and sorbets is aiming to double its exports to China and target new markets after experiencing export success across Europe.

Yee Kwan, which secured a £50k investment on BBC Dragons’ Den, has started discussions with a distributor to target new markets in the Middle East, including Kuwait and Qatar.

The business has been working with advisers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to break into these new territories.

Yee Kwan is also looking to sell more of its products in China after attending a Food & Hotel China (FHC) event in November last year. The FHC is a tradeshow for the country’s food and drink industry.

The firm exhibited at FHC alongside other Northern Powerhouse firms as part of the Food is GREAT and Exporting is GREAT campaigns, the UK Government’s cross department initiatives to showcase UK produce overseas and to support firms to export.

DIT is currently featuring Yee Kwan alongside 30+ other UK businesses as part of its Exporting is GREAT campaign.

Yee Kwan, which began exporting only three years ago, currently sells its products across 10 European countries, supplying its desserts to Japanese-inspired restaurant chain Wagamama.

The ice cream business started trading in 2009 after its current owner Yee Kwan became inspired by Far East flavours while traveling through South East Asia. The firm now employs six full time members of staff and has an annual turnover of more than £400k.

Yee said: “After we’d realised the potential to sell our products overseas, we began working with advisers at DIT, who supported us in exhibiting at the International Food & Drink Event in London. It was here where we met a buyer from a major Chinese online retailer, and we secured an order worth £25k.

“We then jumped on the opportunity to exhibit at FHC in Shanghai so we could build on our success in China. We had plenty of interest in our products there and we’re expecting to double our sales to the country off the back of it.

She added: “Markets such as the Middle East also have a lot of potential for us and we’re reviewing how we can take our desserts to the US too.

“But, exporting isn’t without its challenges. For example, there are strict regulations on exporting dairy products to the US. We’re working with government advisers to see how we can overcome this barrier. One solution could be finding a manufacturer to make our products under licence in the US. We’ve found that there’s loads of support to help us navigate exporting challenges – if we can do it, so can you!”

Mark Robson, regional director at the Department for International Trade, commented: “Across the UK, businesses are embracing global export opportunities, with the trade of goods with non-EU countries growing by 11.6% in 2017 – faster than with the EU at 10.9%.

“An ambitious producer like Yee Kwan, that has seen major success in Europe, is an excellent example for other Yorkshire food and drink firms to follow.

“Our 29 dedicated Yorkshire and the Humber International Trade Advisers can help firms navigate the challenges exporting may throw at them with specialist food and drink support available from Defra advisers too.”

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