Case study

Family business exports its gourmet popcorn to 15 markets

UK government helped Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn sell its handmade popcorn with classic British flavours to 15 international markets.

Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn
Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn

This company was assisted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which has since moved to the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn’s story began when Joseph Sopher brought back gourmet popcorn from the USA as gifts for relatives.

Developing a premium product

In 2010 he began experimenting with an array of 30 classic British flavours, and a secret cooking process involving air-popping the corn.

This resulted in a winning formula for popcorn connoisseurs and turned a conventional snack into a premium brand. Traditional British flavours such as ‘Strawberries and Cream’, ‘Cheddar Cheese’ and ‘Gin and Tonic’ have huge consumer appeal in international markets.

Working with UKTI

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) worked with the company to:

  • develop an export plan for its premium product
  • build a presence at international tradeshows
  • make the necessary contacts to establish distributors and meet buyers

Adam Sopher, co-founder of Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn said,

UKTI has been extremely helpful, it has provided us with great opportunities to network and learn from each other. It’s a painless investment in your business.

The company has quadrupled in size since it started to export, growing from a team of 8 to 38 employees.

The brand aims to continue expanding into new countries as well as developing in the 15 markets where they already have an existing presence.

Want to find out how DIT can help you? Arrange a face to face meeting with an International Trade Adviser.

‘Gourmet’ export plan

Co-founder, Adam Sopher was introduced to UKTI services programme by UKTI London International Trade Adviser (ITA), Lucy Randolph.

UKTI helped prepare businesses to enter international markets through:

  • writing a bespoke action plan to improve export capability
  • helping the company to network and make new contacts using UKTI services such as webinars and tradeshows
  • continued support from an appointed ITA

Adam Sopher said,

Our original business plan for export was a bit reactive, but after accessing UKTI we were able to develop a more concrete plan which has successfully supported our export journey.

Lucy and the team have been a great support for us and there are a number of wins from the work we’ve done that can be linked back to working with UKTI.

UKTI webinars

UKTI webinars share export knowledge through delivery of online presentations by industry experts from across the globe.

Adam Sopher dialled into a webinar hosted by the British Embassy in Copenhagen to network with knowledgeable contacts in Denmark. This ultimately led to listings with a large distributor in the market.

Find out about forthcoming DIT webinars.

Attending trade events

Building a strong presence at industry tradeshows enabled Joe and Seph’s popcorn to meet potential customers and identify routes to market.

Funding through UKTI’s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) allowed the company to showcase the business at popular food and drink expos such as Anuga in Germany in 2013 and SIAL in France in 2014.

Adam Sopher said,

The TAP grant was particularly useful to support our presence at Anuga where we agreed a deal to launch in a large Australian retailer as well as a fantastic distributor in the Netherlands.

Attendance at a UKTI ‘Meet the Buyer’ food and drink event enabled the company to meet international buyers and decision makers and develop new insights and contacts. It resulted in a huge order from a large French retailer. £50,000 additional revenue is forecasted for the business.

Adam Sopher’s top exporting tips

Don’t be scared!

A lot of first time exporters look at exporting as a daunting task, but it is very achievable. Help and advice is available. Whether you are a new or experienced exporter, UKTI have many services you will find both useful and beneficial.

Reach one, teach one.

I found listening to the export stories of other businesses very helpful. The experiences of other people do not mean that your journey will be exactly the same, but it equips you with a better understanding of how to proceed and what to expect. Connect with other businesses on LinkedIn and ask them for advice.

Just do it!

Once you have accepted the challenge, make it happen. Contact UKTI and make use of the resources available to you.

Global exports

Joe and Seph’s Popcorn found that traditional British flavours are popular in developing economies.

The brand now retails in over 1,000 locations internationally. International stockists include Switzerland, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and more recently China, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Lord Livingston, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, has acknowledged the international demand for classic British tastes saying:

More and more countries are getting an appetite for British food.

UK food and drink sector

Popcorn is no longer a snack that is confined to cinema trips. Statistics show that in 2012 the UK popcorn industry had grown by 300% and was worth £42 million. This growing trend appears to be spreading across the globe.

Food and drink is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector with exports increasing by 61% over the last 5 years. In 2013 exports were worth £18.9 billion, an increase of £1.2 billion since 2010.

Fast facts

Company Joe and Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn
Industry Food and drink
DIT Services Tradeshow Access Programme, Webinars
Website www.joeandsephs.co.uk
Published 13 March 2015