Technology Helps UK SMEs Achieve Export Growth

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Despite the uncertainty caused by BREXIT, there has never been a better time for British businesses to explore new markets worldwide.

Figures released earlier this week from the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) show that overseas sales of UK food and drink continued to soar last year, with record exports of over £22 billion in 2017. UK food and drink businesses are now selling their products to 217 markets – with sales of milk & cream increasing by 61%, salmon by 23% and pork by 14%.

The DEFRA report says an increasing thirst for British tipples has also seen bottles of UK beer appearing on shelves as far away as Japan and New Zealand, while gin continues to go through a ‘ginaissance’ with international sales of UK brands reaching over £500 million. From January to December 2017, the UK also sent £85 million worth of cheese to France, £21 million of chocolate to Belgium and even £2 million of tea to China!
Whilst the food & drink industry is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, more than 97% of businesses in this sector are SMEs. And, according to the UK Department for International Trade (DIT), companies that export can typically see a 34% increase in productivity within their first year of exporting. This means that keeping track of supply costs and stock control is critical as they scale to meet demand whilst stretching their cashflow.

One company on the way to achieving its high-growth export ambitions is London-based ‘Ugly Drinks’, which produces 100% natural, fruit flavoured sparkling waters. Co-founder Hugh Thomas says that using a cloud-based inventory management system from Unleashed Software has meant the company has been able to keep a close eye on its stock levels as the business grows.

Hugh says: “Ugly Drinks launched in January 2016 in Selfridges, London. Just one year later, we were working with over 1,000 stockists nationwide and now we are launching the business in the USA. Gaining the visibility of live inventory information, in one central location, has been vital for agile decision making – something we found very challenging before we introduced Unleashed Software. We are a small team working out of a shipping container in Elephant & Castle – everyone’s got to start somewhere!”

Unleashed Software, based in Bristol, has worked with many SMEs within the food and drink sector worldwide, helping them to address their inventory management challenges as they go for growth.

The company’s software removes time-consuming administrative tasks from inventory management processes and integrates with cloud-based accounting packages (such as Xero and QuickBooks), to enable business owners to focus on increasing productivity and profitability rather than worrying about stock levels. Importantly, it enables managers to use real-time data via the cloud to take quick decisions, at anytime and anywhere, across time zones.

Stephen Jones, Unleashed Software’s Territory Manager for the UK and EMEA Region recognises the importance of small businesses keeping lean. He says: “As every business-owner knows, holding excess inventory can be expensive as well as lead to wasteful procurement throughout supply chains. With our inventory management software, the benefits of efficiency run right through the manufacturing process from sourcing raw ingredients through to the point of export and invoicing.”

With the UK Government keen to ensure that companies like Ugly Drinks can boost productivity to exploit new export markets as the UK leaves the European Union, the use of innovative technology such as Unleashed Software inventory management system seems an easy decision.

And with record exports demonstrating a clear desire for British taste, quality and high standards around the world, there seems plenty of opportunity for UK food and drink producers and manufacturers to grow too.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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