Press release

Sussex soap company soaks up £100k Japanese export win

Traditional bar soaps are enjoying a resurgence after the UK exported £378.4 million worth of soap last year.

Christina May Soap

As consumers across the globe become increasingly environmentally conscious, traditional bar soaps are making a resurgence. The UK exported £378.4 million worth of soap around the world in 2018.

One traditional English soap manufacturer based in Waldron, East Sussex is already tapping into this global demand having just secured a new export win in Japan estimated to be worth up to £100,000 a year.

Christina May was founded in 2000 after the co-founders discovered vintage soap moulds lying disused in a machinery workshop on a farm. The manufacturers make soaps from pure vegetable oils with the perfumes being made in England and designed specifically for its brand The English Soap Company.

The new deal was a combined result of the company attending trade shows in Hong Kong and Bologna with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT) and through continuous contact with its Asia-Pacific export manager. The contract is estimated to increase Christina May’s annual turnover by up to 3%.

Oliver Butts, Managing Director at Christina May said:

The prospect of exporting is exciting and perhaps a little daunting, but always fun and a great experience. The paperwork can be an issue in difficult markets which is why we focussed on the easier markets first to build up experience before exporting to the more challenging countries.

Exporting has also helped us to secure our business against the uncertainty of Brexit as we have diversified our market portfolio across the world so that the impact and any consequences are reduced.

I would recommend any business that is considering exporting to see how DIT can help. The department has supported us with grants to attend trade shows and just general advice which has allowed us to develop an expansive export strategy and find international success.

The family-run business located on a farm in the countryside just outside of Heathfield, employs 35 people and currently exports to over 34 markets including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Taiwan and New Zealand. There is a strong demand for the company’s soaps in these countries due to affordability and appreciation for quality made British products, and the business plans to further expand its export markets to include the Middle East, India, South Korea and Indonesia.

With exporting currently accounting for over 55% of Christina May’s annual turnover which has grown from £800,000 to over £3 million over the last 7 years, exports have remained consistent during this time and has been a key driver of growth for the company.

Ben Raby, Head of Region – South East at DIT said:

DIT started supporting Christina May back in 2014 when the company approached us for advice, and it is really exciting to see just how much its exports have grown since that initial interaction.

The company is one of a growing number of British manufacturers – many of which are SMEs – that are driving British success in the multi-billion-pound soap market. Their global success is proof that there is strong overseas demand for quality made English products and that there has never been a better time to explore international markets than right now.

DIT has a network of expert International Trade Advisers on hand to help more businesses respond to this demand and navigate the entire exporting journey.

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Published 10 September 2019