For expats in Santiago pining for a nice cup of English breakfast and an organic shortbread finger, the wait is nearly over. The supermarket chain Waitrose is to start exporting its most popular products to Chile, targeting the fast growing Latin American economy.
The company has teamed up with the homegrown Unimarc chain to offer more than 40 product lines in over 100 stores. These will include favourites such as extra virgin olive oil, penne pasta, stuffed olives, and truffles – and of course, tea and biscuits.
It’s the 46th international market for the upmarket grocery chain, which has already won over customers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. Last year it saw overseas sales soar by 25 per cent to £25 million. As well as the Chilean deal, it has recently signed agreements with supermarkets in Gibraltar and Trinidad, and an online delivery service in Ibiza.
David Morton, Waitrose’s business-to-business director, said they were approached by Unimarc to help meet Chilean customers’ demands for more “cosmopolitan flavours”. And he was in little doubt as to which products he expects to fly off the shelves.
He told the Guardian: “Wherever we sell our products overseas, we find the bestsellers are food and drink associated with Britain, such as tea and biscuits.”
Of course Waitrose is not the only company taking advantage of the growing taste for British food around the world. According to the Food and Drink Federation, sales to non-EU markets rose by 4.6 per cent in 2012.
Many of their success stories involve typically British products, such as Nairn’s oatcakes, Dorset Cereals, Burton’s Biscuit Company (manufacturer of Wagon Wheels and Jammie Dodgers), Westaway sausages, and Typhoo tea.
Of course, expanding overseas isn’t always a smooth ride. Waitrose will hopefully have learned from Tesco’s ill-fated venture into the competitive US market. Tesco finally decided to close the loss-making Fresh & Easy chain this year. Critics said they had failed to understand how American consumers like to shop, and the stores had confusing and unappealing layouts. And according to one marketing analyst, Fresh & Easy failed to market itself as an “aspirational” brand.
That’s not a criticism often directed at Waitrose. And unlike Tesco, it has chosen to work with international partners to distribute products, rather than open its own stores. It’ll be interesting to see if they decide to expand into other South American markets.
And for other food and drink companies (of all sizes) looking beyond their borders, it seems that the winning recipe is a high quality product mixed with local knowledge.