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South East Food & Drink companies feed their export hunger at Milan Expo 2015

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It was a very early start for myself and the thirteen winning food & drink companies as we jetted off from Gatwick to begin the 3-day ‘Taste of the South East’ Visit to Milan.

After a competitive pitch to a panel of international trade and industry experts, these companies won a place to go to Milan to represent the best of the South East region Food and Drink companies to a global audience.

In 2014, the Food & Drink industry was worth an enormous £1.4 billion to the South East, and with companies such as our competition winners expanding their export growth, the region continues to make itself known as the place to go for quality produce.

From chocolate to fruit, to health snacks to sparkling wine, it was fantastic to accompany such a great mix of traditional and innovative companies which epitomised the quality associated with the ‘Best of British’.

This was also an exciting opportunity to take part in the World Expo 2015 in Milan. As a global platform, our companies were able to showcase their products as well as promote the depth and breadth of produce the South East has to offer the world.

We didn’t have much time to rest when we landed. We started the morning with a welcome briefing at UK House by The Italian British Chamber of Commerce (IBCC) and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Milan. The companies received great information and tips on doing business overseas, in particular hearing from two Italian based companies on their experience of working in the Italian Food & Drink market.

We were then able to take part in the GREAT Week Food & Drink VIP reception which was a highly enjoyable and ideal opportunity to network with UKTI teams from across the globe and other UK Food & Drink businesses. The delegates were thrilled to meet legendary Michelin-starred chefs Tom Aikens and Ken Hom, as well as UKTI CEO Dominic Jermey, at the reception.

The second day was even more jam-packed than the last. We started with the GREAT Week Meet the Buyer event where our companies were able to meet with several Food & Drink buyers from around the globe and present their products. All the companies had a productive morning, with several of them developing positive leads for future overseas business which are likely to lead to real business wins.

We then headed out to the Tutto Food tradeshow. This Italian Food and Drink exhibition gave the companies the opportunity to see the competitive marketplace and to speak with a large number of companies and distributors in their sub-sectors. Several of our delegates came away having met potential partners or distributors as well as companies. Our delegates were looking forward to continuing these conversations when they returned to the UK.

The next stop was Milan Expo. Here, we immersed ourselves in the diversity and innovation on show from each country’s pavilion. To be among the first to visit the Expo, with the launch only taking place days before, it was a memorable experience for us all. We were also able to enjoy and experience the Hive at the UK Pavilion, the design of which celebrated and showcased UK expertise and innovation.

During our final hours in Milan, the visit culminated with a celebratory dinner in the UK Pavilion itself. We toasted to a successful trip while enjoying a meal cooked to perfection by Mosimann’s of London, the chosen caterer for the UK Pavilion at Milan Expo.

The following day it was time head for home with another early morning start. This trip was a great success with the companies coming away with a better understanding of exporting overseas both in Italy and around the world in addition to many having successful and promising meetings with Food and Drink buyers and UKTI Commercial Officers. Several companies generated real business leads resulting in new export sales, whilst others were able to re-evaluate and refine their export strategy based on their experiences during the visit.

It was a hectic three days but an invaluable learning experience and a real pleasure to spend it with such an interesting group of South East businesses. I am genuinely excited by the opportunities that were generated and look forward to seeing the positive results.

View a storify of the trip and images on flickr


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