Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

Can you resist the temptation to sell to the biggest retailer in a new country first ? Multinationals armed with barrels of money and stacks of market research attack all retailers with a high profile market entry plan for their new products. More likely that your company supplies you with a beloved local brand and a small checkbook to invest wisely. What is the logical route forward for exporters of favorite brands from the USA, UK, Germany,Brasil, Mexico , Japan etc ? Listed below is Export Solutions 5 Step plan to translate your niche item to mass market success in overseas countries.

Step 1 – Sell to Homesick Consumers
There are six million USA expatriates abroad and also 6 million UK citizens found outside Great Britain. On a broader basis, there are 80 million people of Italian heritage living outside Italy, including about 17 million in the USA, almost equivalent to USA’s entire Asian population.
92 million foreigners claim ties to Great Britain, including 17 million people living in Australia and 12 million in Canada. These statistics apply to almost all countries who can find their citizens dispersed around the world. These homesick consumers are desperate for their favorite brands from back home. Frequently, they will shop at stores dedicated to treats from home such as Taste of America in Spain or the wide array of British delights found at Myers of Keswick in Manhattan. Eataly is a retail monument saluting the global popularity of Italian foods. These retailers are logical first customers for our products.

Step 2 – Create Visibility at Restaurants Featuring your Cuisine
Many people first discover a new cuisine from eating out at a restaurant. Adventurous people like variety in their diets. Tex- Mex brands enjoy high growth in retailers throughout Europe,Middle East and Asia . Consumers first learned about Tex-Mex food through visits to Mexican restaurants. There are several stories emerging from China such as Starbucks successfully generating significant coffee sales from tea drinking Chinese. Other American products are generating trial in China through partnering with USA style restaurants. Teach consumers about your brand through placement and visibility at restaurants featuring your countries cooking. Consumers will attempt to recreate the food experience in their homes with the brands that they enjoyed at a restaurant.

Step 3 – Target Regional Chains in Expatriate Areas
California is home to 33 % of USA’s Asian population. New England maintains the highest concentration of Brasilians.
Chicago is home to many Greeks. Italians are everywhere, but primarily reside in the Northeast USA. Over half USA’s Hispanic population can be found in California,Texas, and Florida. New York Metro is home to people from all over the world from UK to Israel to Russia to France to the UK. Major cities like London,Hong Kong, Sao Paolo and Sydney share similar dynamics. The idea is to sell to regional supermarket chains with existing demand generated by people with ties to the home country. For example, HEB in Texas is an excellent destination for Hispanic products. German Foods target Giant Eagle or Meijer in the Central USA. Italian food products enjoy strong visibility at Shop Rite and Price Chopper. USA products sell well in overseas locations where the USA maintained military bases such as Germany,Philippines, or Japan.

Step 4 – Upscale Retailers Feature Variety
Every country features retailers catering to high income consumers.
These stores feature extensive assortments of international products as a strategy to differentiate versus traditional supermarkets. Their consumers maintain more disposable income to purchase premium international brands and are more open to distinct gastronomic experiences. Upscale supermarkets range from Wegman’s in the USA to Waitrose in the UK, Esselunga in Italy, Jumbo in South America, Superama in Mexico, Kem Chicks in Jakarta ,and City Super in China.

Step 5 – Proven Track Record Drives Mass Appeal
Exporters that have successfully completed steps 1-4 above are now ready for mass retailers. Success at penetrating high end, trend setting, retailers will make your brand more attractive to supermarkets catering to the general population. A patient “crawl, walk run” approach will also present a strong case study for your management to validate the larger investments in marketing and trade programs required to support a national brand launch. 

Lessons Learned:
Calibrate sales expectations to your own investment in research, marketing, and trade development funding. It’s perfectly acceptable to pursue listings at leading supermarket chains, if you maintain adequate brand support budgets. If initial marketing spend is limited, a better option is to make “lower risk” bets on homesick consumers or upscale families which may form a small,but appreciative consumer base.
Success and learning from early markets provide a logical on ramp to broader market success.