The UK wins in a tale of two products19th Jul '16
Hygiene is essential in the global food sector. Continuing the Routes to Growth series, Tracey Boles meets a British disinfectant maker in demand
Company: Evans Vanodine Trading in: China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Cambodia Sector: Hygiene
Take two chemical products. Both made by the same company. Both with an identical formula, both with the same ingredients. One 30 per cent cheaper than the other. Which did Chinese buyers go for?
Answer: the more expensive one. Why? Because it was manufactured in Preston, Lancashire. The cheaper one was made in China. Such is the power of British-made goods.
This is the experience of chemical disinfectant and cleaner maker Evans Vanodine. Over a number of years, it noticed sales of locally-made products in China gradually slide.
The reason? Chinese customers wanted to buy British because similar products manufactured locally were less well regarded.
Peter Thompson, the company’s international division manager, says this is a recent phenomenon: “The local market buys British although it is 30 per cent more expensive to import the product.”
The company eventually closed its Chinese manufacturing unit because of this preference. Instead Evans Vanodine now sells direct to China from the UK and supplies its customers via distributors. All product destined for Asia is made in the firm’s 100,000 square metre Preston facility.
Growing awareness of the necessity for farm hygiene in south-east Asian countries has benefited Evans Vanodine. Its disinfectants and cleaners help prevent diseases including bird flu and foot and mouth.
China and Thailand are big markets for the family-owned manufacturer, which also sells to Taiwan, Indonesia and Cambodia. Exports account for 55 per cent of its £28m turnover, with half of those coming from south-east Asia.
“The local market buys British although it is 30 per cent more expensive to import the product”
Thompson says: “Our product sells because it is required by the customer and specialised. It is an advantage that we are British and a leader in the sector. Over the past decade, farm hygiene has grown in importance across the region. Now it looks to Europe and US when setting standards.”
With south-east Asian agricultural products from cheese to chicken now exported globally, the company sees its niche as “selling biosecurity”. Thailand, for example, farms an estimated one billion chickens a year, many of them exported to the UK.
Evans Vanodine, which employs 145 people, was founded in 1919 and in the 1960s developed a ground-breaking disinfectant for use against foot and mouth disease. However, entering each market is like “starting all over again”, says Thompson.
For chemicals companies ambitious to export, the first step is to get approval from the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Thompson advises having verifiable data on your product performance; Defra will ask for proof of this before conducting its own tests.
After that comes the in-market approval process, which can be costly and time-consuming. Thompson explains: “Registration of this type of chemical product is required in all of the Association of Southeast Asian [Asean] markets and it requires a lot of expertise to guide the products through these processes.
“The key is to develop your own regulatory services resources or use professional services by outsourcing to avoid getting stuck in the mire of bureaucracy and data. Once this hurdle is over, however, the market is yours.”
For British firms looking to China and south-east Asian countries, he recommends being flexible in your approach to each country: “Every market is different and has its own foibles, for example with regard to packaging. It can pay to adapt your marketing strategy.”
Over the next 10 years, Evan Vanodine will focus on the food processing sector in China and the wider region as consumption of meat and dairy products explodes. This is expected to translate into greater demand for chemical cleaners and disinfectants.
Thompson says: “As long as your product or service is based on science and adds value, it will sell in Asia.”