Healthy resolutions: The North East firm helping the world to eat better

David Coppock, Head of Regions – North East at Department for International Trade (DIT) discusses how the healthy habits of consumers overseas has presented a world of export opportunities for UK producers.

More people than ever are becoming more aware of the food they consume.

It’s a global trend, largely driven by a growing awareness of the health and environmental benefits that a better diet can bring, and it’s creating international opportunities for North East food and drink suppliers too.

Healthier options

The growing desire for healthier lifestyles is reflected in the demand for low-calorie, low-sugar and low-carb versions of popular foods and drinks, as well as health supplements.

This has played into the hands of Oatein, a Whitley Bay-based business that makes high-protein snacks such as flapjacks and cookies for health-conscious consumers. 

Exporting has played a huge part in Oatein’s success, with the firm selling more than 2.5 million units of its product to customers in 60 countries worldwide.

Oatein’s overseas success has been supported by International Trade Advisers (ITAs) as part of the Food is GREAT campaign, the cross-departmental initiative to boost awareness of UK food and drink products overseas between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Most recently, the firm launched a new low-sugar protein bar, resulting in securing trial orders from customers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The company now plans to expand its export operations to markets including Indonesia, the US and Canada, supporting the creation of five new jobs in the UK.

Currently, international sales account for around 90% of Oatein’s annual turnover, with the business expecting to see its revenue grow by 200% in the coming year as a result of exporting.

Growing consumer awareness

Oatein started selling overseas in 2016 after recognising a strong demand for high-quality protein-based snacks overseas. Within six months of launching its first product, Oatein saw their goods stocked in 32 countries, including Mexico, Australia and Brazil.

With support from Defra and DIT through the Food is GREAT campaign, the business attended Gulfood, a major food and drink show in Dubai, securing a major export contract with LuLu Hypermarkets, a major Middle Eastern supermarket chain.

Andy Dixon, Global Sales Director, Oatein, said: “The UK market is very competitive, so straight away we looked to take Oatein abroad to trade shows in India, the UAE and Germany.

“The low-sugar protein bar market is growing at a huge rate, and the consumer reaction to our new bar has been amazing. We’ve been inundated with inquiries and we think we can triple our turnover with these new products.”

Here to stay

And healthy eating isn’t just a consumer trend that could fade away.

Growing numbers of governments are legislating to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity, for example by introducing a tax on sugary drinks, like that which came into force in the UK in 2018.

So, it seems this is an opportunity that’s here to stay.

But exporting isn’t without its challenges with producers having to conform to food and drink regulations and packaging requirements in the markets they are targeting.

However, DIT’s experience in the food and drink sector means we can provide bespoke support for producers exploring their export potential, including market research, introductions to distribution and retail partners and advice on regulatory issues.

We have people on the ground in the region and around the world with hard-earned expertise and established networks of contacts, and we’re supporting producers with foreign visits and trade missions.

With our support, even more healthy eaters around the world will soon be enjoying a taste of the North East.