A group of UK food and drink makers returned from China on Monday after marketing British-made delicacies there, including clotted cream from Cornwall and gin and juice from Devon.
Nine food and drink manufacturers, drawn mainly from Southwest England, participated in the weeklong trade mission. The trip was organized and funded by the firms' bank, Santander Corporate & Commercial, and supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade.
David Shalliday, a regional director at Santander Corporate & Commercial said: "It has become increasingly important for UK SMEs to look overseas for growth opportunities. Companies are stronger and more resilient to economic downturns when they are diversified and have commercial activity with different economies."
Representatives from beer and ale producer Skinner Brewing and dairy company Rodder's, both from Cornwall, made the journey. Rodder's is the UK's largest producer of Cornish clotted cream, a thick cream typically spread on scones at tea time.
Three Devon-based companies were part of the mission, including gin maker Salcombe Distilling Company, and juice makers Luscombe Drinks and Frobisher's Juices.
Two Bristol companies, gin distillery Bramley& Gage and jam maker Stute, made the trip, as did Shropshire firm The Granola Girls and Lincolnshire-based confectioners Jakemans, which is known for its cough drops.
The companies were joined by two UK food export management enterprises, Christie International and Tudor Rose International.
Delegates met representatives from six large Chinese buyers at an event held at the home of the British consul general in Beijing. And representatives from the companies toured online platform JD.com's headquarters in Shanghai, and visited three supermarket chains that specialize in imported goods.
The British businesses also attended a briefing at the Bank of Shanghai, where they received information about IP protection in China and gaining access to JD.com, China's largest e-commerce company by revenue. Santander and JD.com signed a memorandum of understanding last year to allow the bank's UK customers to join the platform.
"Santander believes that China is a prime market for food and drink SMEs to consider, with its growing economy and strong interest in British-produced products," Shalliday said.
In the first half of this year, UK food and drink exports to China grew by 35 percent, compared to the same period last year, totaling 274 million pounds ($368 million).
A growing taste for meat, dairy, beer and "afternoon tea" products among Chinese consumers contributed to a 51 percent increase in British food and drink exports to China in 2016, making it the UK's fastest-growing market.