Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


China in their hands

The heat might be on for the UK to confirm trade deals with the rest of the world following the decision to leave the EU, but international business dealings have gone on forever and the North East hasn’t been slow in doing its exporting bit for the country.

A delegation of drinks producers recently returned from a mission to sell the region’s alcohol produce to the Chinese market, organised by the Department for International Trade and supported by the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).

A team of North East brewers and distillers set up their stalls at the Shanghai International Expo Centre where importers, traders and businesspeople flocked to see what we have to offer. Here are their impressions:

“It was great to understand the Chinese market and we believe there is a big opportunity for us there. We have already gained a listing with 40-plus Wellcome Supermarkets in Hong Kong for the Röad Crew beer we did in collaboration with rockers Mötorhead off the back of our visit. We have a couple of importers agreed in China now which should hopefully see us gain listings for the keg and bottled Röad Crew in both the off- and on-trade.”

“The trip was certainly useful. Reaction to our beers was great, especially the Kaffir Lime Leaf and Campfire Porter. It was interesting to find out that the Chinese market is still very much focused on 330ml bottles for premium craft beers. They do not like cans or 500ml bottles at all. I think off the back of this trip we should be doing some business with China in the next 12 months, which is fantastic.

Local beer over there is still very much Tsingtao and Bud, but we visited a few fantastic craft beer places which had huge selections of beer from all over the world, yet we found it was very much lacking in the UK section. Hopefully, this is where we’ll fit in nicely. I reckon there’s certainly a place in the Chinese market for us.”

“Taking 20 hours to get there and having jet-lag, it was a challenge manning the trade stand for three days. However, there are lots of useful leads to follow up and we met the British consulate general from Shanghai, so I’m sure we’ll be doing some business there. We also visited retail outlets, showcased our products, hosted a beer festival, and Yousef Doubooni and I did a Q&A with Lin Lin, who works for a craft brewery in Shanghai, about craft beer in the UK. It was streamed to more than 1m people.”

“Shanghai was such an experience and it was great to be there among other names in the drink industry from the region. The support from UK Trade & Industry and CBBC was fantastic. I was representing Sonnet 43 Brew House and Sunderland’s Poetic License Distillery and it looks to have been a very fruitful trip. The Chinese liked what we had to offer and we already have some export deals in place. Both brands will be on Chinese shores by February 2018.”

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Alastair Gilmour

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