JW Filshill secures lucrative children’s drink deal in China

Scottish wholesaler JW Filshill has secured a £120,000 deal to supply a range of healthy Disney character branded fruit pouches for children – made in Scotland – to the fast-growing Chinese market

JW Filshill International, a subidiary of the family-owned firm which is based at Hillington in Glasgow, sent its first shipment of real fruit purée pouches to China earlier this month after brokering a deal with a Shanghai-based importer which has sold the product into Walmart. The American retail giant operates over 400 stores in China and plans to open 115 new outlets between now and 2017.

Chris Miller (pictured), head of export and commercial operations at JW Filshill International, said: “Our importer, who carries the Disney brand licence for China, specialises in the health food category for the baby-to-teenage segment and currently imports dozens of Disney-brand products. We are also hopeful our importer will secure a listing with Shanghai Disney Resort, the first Disney resort in mainland China, due to open in late 2016.”

The new Disney range has been 12 months in the planning with Filshill overseeing the sourcing, production, packaging and shipment of this initial order of 50,000 units (pouches). Available in three variants – Strawberry & Apple; Blueberry, Apple & Banana; and Mango, Apple & Banana – the premium purées are targeted at toddlers and younger children, and feature Disney favourites Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the packs.

Produced by an existing Filshill supplier based in Lanarkshire, each 90g pouch is made with real fruit with no added sugar, no artificial flavourings or colourings, and ingredients classed as “no gluten”. Miller said: “This is a hugely significant and exciting development for Filshill which comes on the back of our success in international markets for our Craft Beer Clan of Scotland division.

“During our recent visits to Beijing and Shanghai with the Clan we were introduced to an importer who specialises in products for babies and children and the project snowballed from there,” he explained. “There’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make it happen but once we got the green light to proceed it came to fruition in around six months.

“We established early on with Craft Beer Clan that China is key to our international growth as consumers there are hugely interested in Scotland and have a particular appetite for Scotch whisky as well as premium food and drink products,” Miller said. “There’s also a new generation of Chinese consumers who are very conscious about what they eat and want their children to grow up with healthy eating habits.”

According to Miller, the “Filshill model” of taking control of the sourcing, production, packaging and shipment presents many Scottish food and drink suppliers with a route to market that didn’t previously exist. “Ocean freight and shipping goods to China can take several weeks – we’re going to the Port of Shanghai via Felixstowe – and this particular order won’t dock until mid-January,” he said.

“The export documentation required to support clearance in the market is a very complicated process so it’s understandable this is an element of doing business in China that will put off smaller producers – many British SMEs struggle to do business in China because of the bureaucracy.

“For example, once your goods arrive they could take another three to four weeks to clear customs, so our long-term strategy is to offer a tried-and-tested route to market for Scottish and UK suppliers wishing to tap into burgeoning export markets in China and other countries including Hong Kong, Dubai, Thailand and Japan. As we have experienced in the beer and spirits markets importers prefer to deal with export consolidators working in partnership with several smaller producers.”

Miller pointed to Scottish Development International, Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Food & Drink as “key collaborative partners” in JW Filshill’s international activity and said he saw these relationships becoming increasing important in the future. “Being able to tap into SDI’s people on the ground in markets such as Dubai and Shanghai has been invaluable and we couldn’t do it without them.

“In Scotland, we have excellent relationships with Scottish Enterprise and industry body Scotland Food & Drink which has enabled us to make contact with ambitious suppliers keen to broaden their horizons and move into international markets.”


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