Posted: Thu 28th Feb 2019
A mother and child's experimentation with homegrown goods created beetroot ketchup brand and Enterprise Nation member Foraging Fox. Four years later they're shipping the sauce across the world.
We asked co-founder Desiree Parker about growing the export business. From turning down leads because the supply chain wasn't ready to successfully selling in seven countries, here are her answers.
Turning a kitchen table idea into a business
The whole business started with my co-founder Frankie and her children creating beetroot ketchup. They had beetroot and apples in the garden. It took about three years to hone the recipe. We used to work together, she brought it over and I was totally blown away.
She booked a stand at a trade show in London Olympia. You see the big stands owned by Unilever and the first reaction I had was 'what are we doing'. We had a lovely little tablecloth and some homemade products. It really was a case of David and Goliath. But we were the talk of the show. No one had thought about doing ketchup without tomato. We had 27 leads from other countries.
We shook hands over the stall and decided to go into business together.
We had to say no to a couple of the first big orders. You have to make sure you have your set up well and truly nailed down. That meant ensuring we had manufacturers that maintained the quality of the handmade version. Everything in the supply chain is about having the highest quality ingredients.
We had to turn a kitchen table idea into a business. What is it that I have to be able to scale and deliver? That becomes so important with big retailers. We went from 0-850 stockists in a year.
Selling beetroot ketchup around the world
We made a conscious decision to stick with the UK in the first year. The biggest threat you have as a young business is overstretching yourself. We started looking at the export market two years after launching. We have an ambient product with a long shelf life and we had the leads.
We sat down and made a plan. We went for countries where they're big on BBQ, like beetroot and are big sauce consumers. We were also getting approaches from America, the UAE and Australia. That's when we started to think about how we were approaching all the different markets.
We're a small company. We have a limited budget and marketing to support launching in a new country. You have to ask 'where are you better off targeting?' It can take up to two years to hone in on that and answer that question of where you want to be.
You have to think about all the things that are working against you. You need to think of your total shipping price. That's critical. You have to have a very clear idea of what your total cost of goods is to end up on the shelf. That can include agency fees, shipping, tax, listing fees, health certificates and more.
It's not only about getting your product there but making sure you have the budget to have the right presence. You then have to think about where you want to exhibit. We use trade and consumer shows. Then it's about getting people on the ground that can be the voice of your company, and hiring for marketing and social media.
Packaging and distributors
We stick with the same branding. The value's in our brand and what we stand for. That's what people are buying into. The movement toward natural and organic in the US is huge. We're a challenger brand in a category that's opening up. There's a big group that's looking for healthier alternatives.
You need to think about the different regulations. You have to understand what's required on the label including translations. Regulatory requirements are all part and parcel of exporting. These are upfront costs.
For every 'yes' we've had from distributors, I've had five 'nos'. Stay passionate about it. You might not always get to the right person straight away.
The person you work with is the person that's representing your brand in the country. There's an element of growing together. I spend a lot of time talking to them on Skype and grabbing every opportunity to see them. It's so key to building the relationship. The lead up in conversation to the first deal is 12-18 months with each distributor.
You have to be patient and that's speaking as someone that's fairly impatient. You have to be sure. There are so many things to take into account. The listing prices might vary by isle, for example. It's about learning about that market. Two years in I know so much more about North America than at the start of this journey.
Three key takeaways from the Foraging Fox story
Make sure you know your end-to-end pricing. That's critical. It depends on the market and the route to market.
Be patient. It's not an overnight thing. It can take 12 months or longer to get your first order.
Never lose the passion. For every 'yes' I've had five 'nos'.