Featured Exporter – Nairn’s Oatcakes

Winner of the FDEA Exporter of the Year award, Nairn’s Oatcakes let us know a bit about their road to export success.

Tell us about Nairn’s….

Nairn’s know a thing or two about oats.  They’re at the heart of everything we’ve made since 1896. As an independent company based in Edinburgh, we’ve shown consistent profitable growth to become the UK’s largest producer of oatcakes, and a major player in Gluten Free.  Our product range has continually evolved to include oatcakes, sweet biscuits, crackers, flatbreads, cereals and snacks.

International expansion is a key strategic driver of business growth, and Nairn’s export to 38+ markets (the Republic of Ireland, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, China, Middle East, Cyprus, and The Netherlands account for >80% of international sales).  The international strategy focuses on widening the portfolio to existing customers and targeting new markets (eg. Nordics, Germany, Spain and SE Asia).

Which Products have been selling well overseas?

Whilst our ever-growing range of products continues to grow across the world, there are a few standout products that have captured the hearts of consumers in international markets.

Launched over 12 years ago, multi-award-winning Nairn’s Gluten Free Oat Biscuit Breaks are one of the most successful GF biscuits ranges in the UK and we export them to over 35 countries worldwide.  The Oats & Chocolate Chip variant is Nairn’s best-selling product across the entire product portfolio and is one of our fastest selling lines in the US and Netherlands.

These biscuits demonstrate gluten free products do not have to compromise on taste. They’re so good, you’d never know they were gluten free AND they contain an average of 30% less sugar than other sweet gluten free biscuits.

Oatcakes are the key commercial engine of the Nairn’s business, and it’s no surprise that one of our best known/loved products, Nairn’s Scottish Rough Oat Crackers, are gaining popularity overseas in over 35 markets worldwide, specifically New Zealand, Canada, Cyprus and South Africa.  Packed full of wholegrain oats these simple oatcakes are high in fibre and provide the perfect blank canvas for any topping at any time of day.

Where have you seen export growth in recent months?

Success in the Netherlands – The Netherlands have been a key growth market for a number of years.  In 2022, Nairn’s launched a further 2 Gluten Free products with Albert Heijn, taking total listings to 13.  In January 2022 we launched 4 products in Jumbo in the Netherlands, making it the one of our biggest export customers.  We’ve worked with local marketing agencies to launch a successful media and social campaign to support the listings – sales and consumer feedback has been incredible.

The US has plenty more untapped potential for us to go for – Sales in the US grew over 20% last year and we are now over a $3.5m dollar brand at retail value.  Online sales now account for 25% of our business in the US and with our new A+content and brand store, growth is set to continue this year.  We are investing heavily to continue the momentum with new product launches and sampling programs throughout 2022.

Why have you seen success in these markets?

We understand the importance of creating market specific products and packaging, helping ensure consumer needs and legislative restrictions are met.  This strategy has ensured continued growth of 600% over 10yrs, and 14% in the last FY.  We collaborate with international partners to create business plans unique to the market, helping ensure products are available at the optimum price, in the right stores (8,000+ worldwide) and consumers are tempted to try Nairn’s ever-growing range.

Driving consumer awareness through social media and sampling is positively impacting sales in our key markets and has had the knock-on benefit of gaining us additional depth of distribution in key retailers.  New product launches are also key.

What are the company’s export ambitions for the future?

Growing the Nairn’s brand internationally is a key strategic growth driver for the business.  The objective is to grow Nairn’s international business significantly ahead of growth within the UK and reach minimum 20% of overall sales over the next 3 years.

Gaining distribution in new markets including Nordics, France, Spain and Germany will help achieve this goal, as well as increasing sales through our existing partners.

What are your top tips for food manufacturers looking to start exporting?

For those beginning the export journey, I would advise…

  1. Contacting your local DIT / Scottish Enterprise sector head to make the most of the free support and grants available.
  2. Network within and outwith the industry and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Before embarking on international trade, do the research. Pick key strategic markets and make a success of them before moving on.  It’s easy to get side tracked, try to do everything at once and realise you’ve dropped the ball in the domestic market.
  4. Be prepared for a slow burn. In the main, exporting is a long-term strategy and quick wins are hard to find.
  5. Be prepared to invest, time and money. And more money…

What do you value most about FDEA membership?

Networking is essential in the food and drink industry. There is so much to be learned from other companies and I have met countless people through FDEA to our mutual benefit.  Sharing ideas, do/don’ts, legislative changes – it’s a great source of information and support.

How have exhibitions and events helped grow your export business if at all?

Nothing beats being in a market, seeing the stores, talking to buyers, and experiencing the market first hand.  Shows can be a great way to meet both existing and new partners and we often attend the main shows for that reason.  Taking time to walk the show is helpful to see what other companies are doing and spot future trends that may hit the UK.


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