Featured Exporter – Ramsden International

Ramsden International recently won the Grocer Gold Award for Exporter of the Year.  We find out more about how they have successfully built, and continue to grow, their wholesale export business and what advice they have for British exporters.

Tell us about your business….

Ramsden International is the leading UK wholesale exporter of British grocery brands, selling over 24,000 products to more than 650 customers in 133 countries worldwide.  We are a third-generation, family business based in Grimsby, UK, and we have international sales presence in South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Dubai, UAE.

Our business is solely dedicated to export and we sell to every kind of retailer, from small independent shops to supermarkets and large wholesalers. Our approach of entrepreneurship, innovation and community have brought global success and we are the first and only UK grocer to export to over 100 countries, along with being one of the first to achieve ISO 9001 and AEO-F certifications.

From confectionery, crisps, meat and desserts to baby care, pet care, ice cream and vegetables, we have an endless product offering within our ranges of Everyday (Ambient), Health, Speciality, Chilled and Frozen.

By providing a wide and diverse product range, exceptional levels of customer service support and implementing a strategy to offer customers a total supply chain solution, covering logistics, data compliance, relabelling, ingredient translations and category management, our ‘customer first’ strategy has turned us from simply being an export wholesaler into an unmatched value-added service provider.

Customer service is at the heart of our business. Employing in-country salespeople gives us the local knowledge required to successfully manage the commercial relationships within each territory and, as a business, our teams speak a total of 27 different languages, meaning we can speak in our customers in their preferred language.

Co-op Exclusive Export Partner

Ramsden International are proud to be the exclusive export partner of the Co-op own label product range. Our customers can now choose from a selection of over 2,500 Co-op branded products across all categories – a range worth in excess of £2bn per annum in the UK alone.

Co-op adds a new dimension to our customers’ product offering, with the ability to build bespoke, complete ranges, targeted at solving the needs of their customers and attracting new shoppers to store. Whether that’s providing a tiered product selection or tapping into key trends such as premiumisation, health and meat alternatives with Co-op’s Irresistible, Free From and Gro ranges.

Our customers also have the option of branded point-of-sale materials, which bring to life a brand at the forefront of quality and innovation, that is committed to ethical, sustainable sourcing.

Where do you currently export?….

Ramsden International export to 133 countries, in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America,Australasia and the Middle East. 

Where have you seen export growth in recent months?….

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen challenges around availability, supply chain and logistics, all while managing Brexit-related complexities. We are really proud that during this time we have increased our sales. This achievement has come from both existing customers and new opportunities, which have been building in our pipeline.

New countries opened include Maldives, Sudan, Qatar, Moldova and Macao. Africa, South East Asia and the Caribbean were also successful territories for us, along with growth in Asia Pacific.

In 2021, following Brexit, our ability to adapt quickly, support our customers and shift our strategic focus delivered some excellent results. We have seen growth in territories such as North America and Oceania.

Which products are doing particularly well?….

We offer a variety of key seasonal product ranges which sell extremely well, including Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter. We’re proud to have supplied our customers with the best seasonal products the UK market has to offer for almost 30 years. All of our seasonal ranges are available on a presell basis, and we ensure that our customers receive first-rate brochures to make communication and product selection as clear and simple as possible.

What’s the secret to your export success?….

Taking our product range into new markets can often pose some significant barriers to entry, driven by the complexity involved throughout the supply chain. The decision to expand our business in Africa, focusing heavily on North African countries, was driven by the clear commercial opportunity in those regions. However, whilst the sales opportunity is clear to see, the compliance required to successfully export into those territories can be very complicated and time-consuming.

To tackle this, we recently increased resource in our compliance and data teams, to ensure that we proactively address all requirements when exporting to a new country. This approach ensures that our customers experience only the highest standards of service when working with us. We offer advice and support with:

  • Export procedures, clearing customs, registering goods, guidance in meeting the requirements of each country, providing ingredient lists and sourcing allergen/nutritional information.
  • Assisting with documentation such as health certificates, certificates of origin and certificate of free sale.
  • Supporting European customers with Brexit-related documentation and requirements, such as (but not limited to): vet certificates (EHCs), EORI numbers and incoterms advice.

We work closely with organisations such as The Institute of Export & International Trade, Department for International Trade and FDEA, to ensure we provide customers with the most up-to-date information available. In addition, we are:

  • Compliant with ISO 9001: 2015 – an internationally recognised standard for quality management.
  • Accredited with the Soil Association for all organic products sold by us as an export wholesaler.
  • One of a small number of UK businesses to have achieved full Authorised Economic Operator Status (AEO-F) – an internationally recognised mark of quality, which certifies that our role within the international supply chain is secure, and that our customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.

When taking goods to new markets, we always think with the consumer in mind, to ensure we build the correct product range. Our in-house Category team tap into various different data sources to create an offering that is clearly targeted and has the best chance of success for the target audience. We constantly review the range performance with our customers once it has been established, to ensure we refresh things on a regular basis to maximise sales.

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

This year we established our EU entity, Ramsden Europe BV, to help overcome any challenges that Brexit brought to our European customers. Based in Belgium, this has allowed Ramsden International to supply all EU member states​ whilst keeping the process simple for our customers.

Ramsden Europe launched in August 2021 with an initial range of 3,000 products. The range has now expanded to over 8,000 ambient food products within 37 different categories. ​

Our first vehicle arrived in Mouscron in September 2021 and our aim is to keep growing new EU customers throughout 2021 and into 2022. Our goal is to ensure that Ramsden Europe manage the route to market on behalf of our customers to create a simple and easy experience.

What is your main piece of advice for food manufacturers looking to start exporting?….

1. Be mindful of cultural differences when it comes to exporting. Established practices, behaviours, etiquettes, particular expectations and literal language translations can create barriers and cause misunderstanding. For example, a hard sell is not appropriate in Asian countries, where negotiations are often more protracted and subtler than in the UK. By contrast, in South Africa, people are direct and straight-talking.  When exporting to the US, be prepared for the outgoing, informal culture which prevails, very different to the more introverted, reserved, precise nature of Nordic countries.

2. Do your research. Huge banks of online advice can be accessed at a keystroke, you must always check the reliability of your sources, but there are plenty of reputable independent and official channels that can be quizzed. Seek advice from colleagues and competitors in your sector or other exporters to the country. You will be amazed at how helpful some people can be – and you may find yourself a ready partner to support market entry, saving much time and money, if both parties identify a useful ally.

3. Consider employing residents who are experienced in your sector. While a nation’s citizens are a fantastic resource, another route is to appoint longstanding British expats, who will have an appreciation of both British and local business practices and how to bridge cultural differences.

4. Use official resources and acquaint yourself with the many excellent organisations and government departments who can make your export journey as smooth as possible. The FDEA provide fantastic practical export support and connect UK suppliers to the international buying community. The Institute of Export & International Trade is the professional membership body representing and supporting the interests of everyone involved in international trade and the British Chamber of Commerce unique network connecting British businesses with like-minded organisations around the world.

What do you value most about FDEA membership?….

Working closely with the FDEA ensures we provide our customers with the most up-to-date information available and allows us to keep in touch with the international buying community through regular webinars and meetups and hopefully next year, post pandemic, through exhibitions and events.



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