Upmarket crisp maker Tyrrells has signed a distribution deal to enter the Chinese market as it eyes annual export growth of 60%.

The first shipment of crisps is currently on its way to China after Tyrrells linked up with Sinodis – an importer and distributor of fine food in China.

Tyrrells will be targeting affluent locals and ex-pats in Beijing and Shanghai who are willing to fork out £3 for a 150g bag compared with £1.89 in the UK.

Stronger flavours are expected to appeal most to the Chinese palate. Sweet chili and mature cheddar had proved particularly popular at FHC China in Shanghai two weeks ago, where Tyrrells exhibite with 14 other British companies, said Lawrence Bass, Tyrrells’ head of international sales.

The move into China is part of an effort to target the BRIC economies. Earlier this year, the company signed a distribution deal with Spar International in Russia that it expects to boost its annual sales in the country from £100,000 to £500,000.

Bass said Tyrrells’ target was to grow export sales by 60% year-on-year over the next few years. China was not expected to be a big contributor now but the latest deal with Sinodis had laid the foundations for future growth.

“You have to be there now to build up a successful business in two or three years,” said Bass.

China offered significant opportunities to premium food brands like Tyrrells, said Elsa Fairbanks, director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association, who led the trip to FHC China.

She said a number of local distributors had asked about Ella’s Kitchen – news that was welcomed by the company’s CEO and founder Paul Lindley, guest editor of The Grocer this week.

Lindley said the company would be looking to develop its export business in the region to take advantage of the growing appetite for premium products there. “We have identified China as an opportunity, and over the next year one of us will go over to have a look,” he said.