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For Genius Foods, a leading player in global gluten free, success on the international stage is about mindset.

Genius Gluten Free bread toasted with jam

David Shaw, commercial director of Genius Foods talks about the company's approach to international expansion sharing his top three tips for success.

Adopting the right strategy for global markets

“There’s a significant difference between an exporting mindset and an international mindset, and it’s key to distinguish between the two," said David.

David Shaw, commercial director, Genius Foods
David Shaw's exporting journey
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"You have to get into an alignment across everyone in the business that you are going to be successful internationally. You have to put it right at the top of your agendas.

“It can’t just be an add-on to your UK business. You have to approach each country very differently and be aware of how they operate. Don’t assume the export market is like the local market. You have to rip up the rule book and start again.”

The strategy has worked very well. Edinburgh-based Genius has more than 20,000 distribution points outside of the UK not including the UK points. They launched in four of France’s top hypermarket chains last year and, a few months later, struck a deal with the Netherlands’ Albert Heijn stores making it the brand leader in the country. 

From kitchen to supermarket shelves

Forming strong relationships with partners in local markets is crucial.

David Shaw, Genius Foods

This is all the more remarkable as the company was only founded in 2009 by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne who developed the original Genius loaves after her son was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance. Dissatisfied with the “brick-like, vacuum-packed offerings” in the supermarkets, chef Lucinda set about creating something better.

Eventually after months of experimentation, Lucinda developed a loaf that was good enough to become soldiers for her son’s boiled eggs. She took a sample to her local Tesco where she persuaded a buyer to try it. Tesco took the loaves for a six-month trial and the demand was remarkable. 

Meeting demand

Quickly, Lucinda had to set up production facilities to meet the demand from the UK, and, more recently, the rest of the world. 

In line with David’s international thinking, each target geography was meticulously researched before launch. He said: “You have to sweat the detail. It’s critical you get local knowledge and get local professionals involved. You must listen to local consumers. Everyone in your organisation has to understand that every market is different. If you treat it that way there’s every chance you’ll be successful.” 

Research, respect and relationships

Genius Gluten Free bread packs
Genius Gluten Free bread packs

And respect is one of the three elements that David believes is essential to export success. Alongside research, he lists respect and relationships. Respect is about understanding that every culture and market is different reflected in consumer behaviour. 

“Forming strong relationships with partners in local markets is crucial,” he added. “Their knowledge of the market, its consumers and processes, is vital to success. Never presume you know everything – use local people and use agencies.

“Use agencies such as Scottish Enterprise, who were crucial to us on our way through. Their advice, introductions to new networks and access to funding were a major part of us breaking into international markets. While they won’t do the work for you, they will make your business journey so much smoother.”

How we can help

Are you keen to export your products or services, but don’t know how to begin? Or perhaps you’re already exporting, but you’d like to improve your processes and extend your market reach? We can help guide you through the next steps for your business.

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