A growing number of Dutch companies are tapping into the UK market by gearing their efforts towards attracting the business of UK retailers.
Although The Netherlands’ food producers have held traditionally strong trading links with Continental neighbours Germany, France and Belgium, more companies than ever are turning their attentions to the UK as an increasingly important trading partner.
Dutch bakery company Bakkersland, which has teamed up with Tesco and Asda to make a selection of their own-label cakes, is one such company. Walter Kluit, chief executive at Bakkersland, explains: “We work across all European countries, but we have found that The Netherlands has a natural fit with the UK market. Both countries share key trends and similar eating habits.
“There was a huge opportunity to bring the elements of café culture from The Netherlands, such as layered pastries and indulgent cakes, into the UK. We felt we were in an ideal position to produce these products on a larger production scale. We have found the fast-moving UK retailers particularly dynamic to work with.”
The success of UK food retailers, especially the major multiples, is acting as a beacon for Dutch companies eager for a share of the limelight and, as a result, Dutch exporters are prepared to work with the UK to develop business opportunities.
This, says Robert Smith, UK MD for the Dutch Meat Board, is especially apparent in The Netherlands’ meat sector, where the UK remains its most important trading partner, with 34% of Dutch bacon and pigmeat products arriving on British soil.
“The Dutch meat sector has worked hard to develop positive long-term relationships with its UK trading partners,” says Smith. “Bacon exports to the UK have seen consistent long-term growth and historically this was focused largely on the foodservice sector. The growth in the past few years has been fuelled by the Dutch working closely with UK trading partners to meet market demands.”
Jonathon Read, UK director for the Flower Council of Holland, believes that the same can be said in the flower sector, where the increasing importance of UK retailers such as Tesco, Asda and Marks and Spencer over the past 10-15 years has led to growth in the industry. “Among Dutch flower growers there is a lot of focus on building the marketplace,” he says, adding that 65% of all flowers sold in the UK are purchased from a supermarket.
Keen to tap into this popularity, the Flower Council of Holland has linked up with the UK Flowers and Plants Association to develop the sector and produce advertising and marketing campaigns to promote flowers.
Frits Thissen, a counsellor for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality at the Royal Netherlands Embassy, says: “The Dutch like doing business with the UK because of the rather straightforward approach, shared attitudes and values regarding free trade.”
Exports of agricultural produce, food and drink to the UK, he adds, represent 22-23% of all Dutch exports to the country.