Publish date: 21/03/2017

 

This week we caught up with Rangiora Bakery managing director, Ron van Til, to find out his thoughts and advice on exporting.

ENC: What markets do you currently export to?

Ron: Our first export orders were in 2002 to the Middle East and Asia.  Those were principally because we had contacts there. 

 We have also made some visits to Korea.

 But our real export efforts are mainly focused on Australia.  We started exporting frozen muffins and slices there in 2009. It’s easier and more economical - we can fly there and back in one day, flights are not overly expensive and we don’t need to pay for accommodation.  So it is simply easier to maintain relationships.  

 If you pick a market you have to be in the market physically.  Business is about relationships.  It’s very rare that we would engage with people we meet for the first time in our business here and that same thing happens worldwide. 

ENC: Why did you decide to start exporting?

Ron: We are pretty well saturated in New Zealand and for me there’s a social responsibility aspect.  We could solicit for business in New Zealand, but we don’t – we want to leave the market for other NZ bakeries to have a share.  In Australia, however, we pursue any potential business.

ENC: What have been the main challenges of exporting for Rangiora Bakery? 

Ron: You are constantly learning – that is one of the big challenges.  For instance, a couple of years ago we started exporting quiche.  One of the regulations we understood was that it had to contain less than 10% egg white.  But our container was stopped as the egg white came in at 10.1% - we had been advised on dry weight but then it was tested on wet weight.

You have to be careful how you work through those issues – don’t take anything for granted.

I believe that 80% of decisions are made on relationships and 20% on product.  For example, one time we had presented a product to a potential Australian client.  They loved it but never placed an order with us.  We then had another customer who presented it to the same potential client and they placed an order through them – because they already had that relationship.

You have to work at the relationship, work with the customers, present new ideas and build up that trust.  You have to be on your game.

ENC: What support/advice/resources have you found useful in the exporting process?

Ron: The people I probably learn from most are our fellow competitors here in New Zealand.  We learn bits and pieces from each other, how others have handled a particular issue or problem.  The overseas market is so big there is space for all of us.

Also, NZTE are quite good as a source of advice/support.  They do some things very well – like trade shows and facilitating introductions.  But they have a tendency to play with the big guys. And, obviously, you can’t expect them to sell for you.

ENC: What advice would you give to others looking to export?

Ron: One key thing to keep in mind is the cashflow with exporting.  If you get an order you need the cashflow to sustain it.  You can ship an order in January and by the time it lands in February and is stocked through the distributor, you may get paid at the end of April.  Look into opening local bank accounts to make it easier for you but also for your clients to pay you.

And, lastly, talk to people, don’t be a typical kiwi who says they can do it all themselves.  It’s very rare that people won’t help if you just ask a question, “What’s your experience of this market?” for example.  That kind of knowledge, from people who’ve done it, - you can’t put a price on.