Food (& drink) for thought

Companies wishing to maximise their potential in the sector gathered at Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet this month to hear from experts and entrepreneurs at the food and drink seminar, jointly organised by Thrings and Francis Clark, in association with Santander.

Among the panel of speakers was Thrings partner, Graeme Fearon, who shared advice on the importance of branding and brand values – an area which benefits from careful planning and appropriate time and resources.

Graeme explains that the difference between milk as a low-ticket commodity, and milk as an ingredient in a value-added product like an artisanal cheese or ice cream, is significant. A brand can help set a product apart from competing lines on supermarket shelves and enable customers to identify a business online or at markets.

Brands are best protected through registered trade marks (although registered designs, copyrights and even patents may have their part to play). Even without registration, a brand will attract a certain amount of goodwill, which can be enforced against copycats. But both registered trade marks and goodwill are double-edged swords – businesses need to make sure their own branding decisions don’t infringe someone else’s rights.

International expansion was another area covered by Thrings at the seminar. Solicitor Jade Kent said that with the right motivation, infrastructure, backing and sound legal groundwork, smaller-scale operations can make it big in new overseas markets. Notably, cider maker Thatchers could have remained a local producer in its domestic market but chose to take the leap onto the global stage.

Proper support and advice should be sought to ensure all issues are approached in the best way for each individual business. To realise their growth ambitions, businesses need the right people in the right place and to choose the most appropriate legal structures for expansion. Sales can be handled via direct sales operations, local distribution networks, branch offices, franchises and joint ventures - the right option for any particular business will depend on its specific needs and circumstances. It is also important not to forget matters such as local taxes, local laws and regulations, customs, insurance and, of course, intellectual property and branding.

Breaking out of a home market to wider success is not necessarily difficult, but requires a real application of effort and cannot be treated as a part-time project. If food and drink producers are prepared to think like a global business and act like a global business, the sky’s the limit.

If you are interested in discussing your food and drink business needs, please contact Graeme and Jade via the contacts provided in the above links.

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