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Ep 17 - Chocolate without borders

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After touching on the topic briefly across multiple episodes, this week we sit down with Bite Society's head of global sales, Michal, to finally bring you an in-depth episode on international business and how we plan to take our mission global.



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Show notes

Some of you may be thinking, why is that we are even interested in doing international business since we are a zero profit and our motivation doesn't lie in the money? 

The answer falls under two main reasons.

1. We are a project with a mission to make vegan products as affordable as possible - a goal that goes hand in hand with manufacturing scale. Essentially, the more we produce, the lower the cost, something hard to do if we are only selling in one country.

2. At the end of the day we want to bring affordable vegan products to as many people as possible, which naturally translates into being a global company - a vision Bite Society has held for itself since the start.  

Speaking of, we had an awesome new article published about us in Food Navigator Asia, in which we disclosed some pretty new and exciting information... that we had found a new distributor in South Korea!

But that's not all... they had found us!

I guess this is where we take a moment and rewind a little.

A few months ago, an exclusive Korean distributor of kitchen equipment had decided they wanted to expand into vegan products. After doing some research and looking for brands that they thought would resonate with local consumers, they stumbled across Bite Society. They reached out, we responded and the rest was history.

But not quite. Despite the wonder of it all, it's nonetheless important to mention it was a lengthy process spanning over many months, negotiating and sharing information to ensure we were able to genuinely move forward and launch in Korea - a learning process in itself.

The most time consuming part was that they had to get the green light from a local food safety regulator, something we weren't expecting as it usually only applies for products with novel ingredients, none of which our chocolate has. We got it in the end, but it took a while, and served as a reminder that rules and regulations differ according to country, something to account for in the time and effort allocated to the expansion process.

Now you may be asking, it's all well and good to have people reach out to me, but how do I go about finding a distributor of my own? 

1. Generate (or increase) inbound requests through PR.

An example of this is our recent article published in Food Navigator Asia. We wanted to make ourselves known to local distributors in Singapore, so we mentioned we were actively looking for one, fully aware that there are many people reading this publication from our desired market.

2. Don't hesitate to reach out to distributors yourselves. 

In this, it's important to do the research to ensure you pick distributors that are relevant and understand your product and your mission. For us, that meant finding companies that were familiar with the vegan market and plant based consumer.

This led to major learnings, one of which was the necessity of cultivating patience and persistence. So many markets, especially in the western world, have an overwhelming amount of vegan products for distributors to choose from and despite our chocolates being unique with a great price, it can still be hard to get through. What we found is that it helps if you have new products or news that you can use as an opportunity to re-approach contacted distributors, something we did with our salted caramel balls that we found increased distributor's response rate. Either way, challenges come up and it can cause delays, but the key is not to become discouraged and give up on the goal.

Another learning was that each market has slightly different requirements for labels. Currently our product is packaged in a way that meets the requirements for AU and NZ, but in Hong Kong for example we have to use a sticker as we require an extra line for nutritional information. It's vital to look at each country individually, and be able to adapt the packaging/product accordingly. Our tip for this is if you are thinking of international sales from the beginning of your project, it may be useful to design the packaging in a way that will allow for modifications.

At the end of the day however, no one size fits all, and if or when you choose to expand beyond your home border depends entirely on your product. What remains universal however, is the importance to consider timing, and choosing the right markets where consumers will be likely to buy your product, often meaning the first ones you look at are closer to home. Logistics are also important, as it may be easier for an Australian startup to initially expand to NZ or the other way around simply due to the more flexible and straight-forward movement of goods - a tactic we employed upon our launch last year.

Image showing distribution of Bite Society chocolates across AU and NZ

Image from mostlyvegannz, our first NZ stockist!

So, the question still stands, where do we currently stand with our Korean distributor and what are our future plans in this space? 

Well, the chocolates are all locked and loaded, ready to start sales in the country this week. 

As for future plans, we are hoping to expand our International Brand Ambassador program, with the hopes that anyone outside of Australia, NZ, and HK with a passion to make a difference and make our mission global will reach out! If this is you, or you want to find out more, please don't hesitate to contact myself katrina@bitesociety or michal@bitesociety, we'd love to have you on board to help. 

Otherwise, thank you for tuning in to this week's episode. 

We hope you're having a lovely weekend and remember to #biteforwhatsright!