Export deal sees Middle East get taste for Seabrook crisps

Neil Gibson, left, and Kevin Butterworth. Pic by Richard Walker/www.imagenorth.net
Neil Gibson, left, and Kevin Butterworth. Pic by Richard Walker/www.imagenorth.net
  • Firm wants global trade to become 10 per cent of turnover
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Seabrook Crisps has announced its first international deal in a major export drive that forms part of a long-term growth strategy for the business.

The Yorkshire-based crisp maker has agreed a deal with LuLu Hypermarket, a well-known supermarket chain in the Middle East. Seabrook will provide a range of its premium Lattice crisps to the supermarket chain.

Bradford-based Seabrook says it is hoping to ramp up its export operations following the deal.

Kevin Butterworth, who has been re-appointed as marketing and international sales director, told The Yorkshire Post: “Export currently accounts for very little so we’re still predominantly a UK business. Majority of our sales come from the UK.

“I’d like to think that within three years international trade will account for around ten per cent of our total turnover.”

The Seabrook brand will initially be introduced into hypermarkets across Dubai as part of the LuLu’s ‘Best of British’ event.

The Middle East primarily has a good presence for UK brands.

Kevin Butterworth, marketing and international sales director at Seabrook crisps

The first shipment, encompassing 120g bags of Sea Salted, Black Pepper, Cheese & Onion and Sweet Chilli flavours, is being launched in stores from this month.

The Gulf region has a good presence and demand for British brands, says Mr Butterworth, not just from the expatriate community but also a wider international audience seeking quality.

He said: “The Middle East primarily has a good presence for UK brands. Historically it’s always had that. Whether that be the expats out there or the local and international people who have a high view of those brands.”

LuLu Hypermarket has stores based across the Gulf region. In addition to the United Arab Emirates, LuLu has stores in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India. The process that was most time consuming in securing the deal was extending the shelf life of the crisps, Mr Butterworth said.

“By extending the shelf life you’re then opening yourself up to many more markets. I think that was the hardest part in getting the product ready for sale,” he added.

The crisps will carry the same ‘Lovingly Made in Yorkshire’ tagline it has on its UK packaging in international markets. However, the firm says it may evaluate the slogan in the future.

Mr Butterworth said: “We’re proud of it. We’re proud of where we come from. We’ve been here for 70 years. It’s absolutely part of our heritage. We won’t move away from it lightly but we will see what the international market feedback is and evaluate that.”

Along with the Middle East, the company is also eyeing other international markets.

“We’re narrowing it down to where the biggest opportunities are,” Mr Butterworth said. “There’s probably three areas emerging and that’s Western Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.”

In order to allow Mr Butterworth to focus on international expansion, the company has appointed food and drink marketing specialist Neil Gibson.

Mr Gibson, who has previously worked for Fox’s Biscuits and Vimto, will take on the role of marketing manager and will support Seabrook’s continued UK sales growth.

The trade mission that found flavour with supermarket chain

The deal with LuLu Hypermarket was brokered by Kevin Butterworth after meeting the supermarket chain at the hospitality trade fair, Gulfood, in Dubai.

Seabrook attended the event as part of a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Northern Powerhouse trade envoy.

Mr Butterworth said the Bradford-based firm would be seeking to join further trade envoys in the future as it looks to expand its international footprint.

Seabrook is also hoping for further wins in the Middle East following this deal with LuLu.

Mr Butterworth said he wasn’t sure what the impacts of a ‘Brexit’ would be on Seabrook’s export plans.

However, his personal opinion is that he would like Britain to remain a part of the EU.

He said: “At this stage it’s difficult to say. We don’t currently do any business within the European Union so we don’t know how we would be affected by that.

“From my point of view I would prefer to remain part of it because of the opportunities around trading, but that’s a Kevin view not a Seabrook view.”

Mark Robson, UKTI regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, congratulated Seabrook on securing the deal.

He added: “This proves the undoubted and potentially transformatory benefits that businesses can enjoy by joining UKTI trade missions designed specifically to broaden their horizons and open doors and opportunities that they could never achieve by attending on their own.”

Mr Butterworth says the Bradford-based crisp maker is looking at going on more trade envoys.