Case study

Sweet Mandarin - selling into new markets with help from UKTI

Sweet Mandarin has exhibited at several international food shows, thanks to Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) funding and practical support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

Sweet Mandarin management staff and products

As a result, its sauces are now sold in Russia, China and beyond.

In 2004, the Tse sisters – Janet and twins Helen and Lisa opened a contemporary Chinese restaurant, Sweet Mandarin, in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. When a regular customer asked if he could bottle some of their barbecue sauce to take home to his mother, a new sideline was born. Today, the sauce business is run separately from the restaurant, employing four full time staff and producing around 20,000 bottles of sauce each week, in three flavours: sweet and sour, sweet chilli and barbecue.

Exhibition success

Lisa registered to receive business alerts from UKTI about export opportunities. Having received an email about a delegation that UKTI was taking to SIAL, a major international food show in Paris, she applied to join. Sweet Mandarin received funding towards the cost of the trip and was included on the UKTI stand in the UK Pavilion. This was soon followed by a UKTI-supported mission to food and drinks trade fair Anuga in Cologne.

These opportunities were very successful, resulting in:

  • repeat orders from a Russian buyer
  • the appointment of a distributor for Australia and New Zealand who is now selling the sauces into major supermarkets including Coles and Woolworths
  • the appointment of a distributor for the Middle East selling into the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain
  • a contact in China.

Exhibiting with UKTI is extremely beneficial,

says Lisa.

It gives us a presence in the UK Pavilion, which is always a busy area of the show. The people who came to see us were all serious buyers, and we found ourselves on a level playing field with other more established brands.

Prime Ministers delegation

UKTI included Sweet Mandarin in a group of 100 British businesses accompanying the Prime Minister on a visit to China in December 2013. As well as visiting Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, the company attended market briefings and presentations, and a gala lunch.

Whilst there, Lisa had a successful teleconference call with the Chinese contact she had made at Anuga. UKTI’s local partner, the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) also put the company in touch with another local distributor. Between these two, Sweet Mandarin has recently secured a £6 million deal to export to China over the next five years.

Speaking to the contact I had made at Anuga, I could tell that the fact that we were in China on such a visit really impressed him,

says Lisa.

It showed us to be a credible, powerful British brand, serious about doing business in China. We are now hoping to grow over the next five years to distribute Sweet Mandarin sauces in 190 countries.

Exporting is crucial for a business to survive but it has its pitfalls. We really appreciate having UKTI on hand to answer our questions, make introductions and create opportunities for us to promote ourselves globally.

Fast facts

Company Sweet Mandarin
Sector Food
Target Market China, Global
UKTI Services Events & Missions, Tradeshow Access Programme, Prime Minister’s delegation
Published 19 March 2014