Exporting to Portugal - a Q&A with Janet Sawyer from LittlePod

Alice Ashworth
Marketing Executive - International
11th February 2020

We asked Janet Sawyer, Founder of LittlePod, about her experiences in exporting to Portugal and what tips she can offer to businesses looking to follow in their footsteps. LittlePod is also a Department for International Trade South West Export Champion - #SouthWestExportChamps - encouraging other businesses in the region to get exporting.

Hi Janet! Can you tell us a little about your company?

Several years ago, I hosted a vanilla day for my local community in Farringdon, East Devon. My friend from the States, an expert in the vanilla industry, hopped across the pond to tell people about the history and cultivation of this exotic spice. The talk fascinated me and I thought about how I could spread the word of pure vanilla and help the people whose livelihoods depend on growing it. So... I set up a company with 3 clear aims:

  • To create products which promote exciting new ways of using vanilla in the kitchen
  • To inform people of the diverse applications of vanilla and describe the benefits of using the natural stuff over its artificial counterparts
  • To help communities which rely on vanilla cultivation and conserve the fragile ecosystems in which pure vanilla is grown.

Since LittlePod’s official launch in May 2010, I've remained true to these fundamental aims. But a lot’s changed too. We've enlisted the help of no fewer than 10 graduates, 4 agencies, 4 full-time and 1 part-time member of staff.

Since selling our first wares at Devon trade shows, our products can now be found across the UK, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Portugal and Qatar.

Why did LittlePod target Portugal?

We didn't start out by targeting Portugal; we were contacted by a distributor called Antonio who had seen out products in Germany. We then met at SIAL (the world's largest food exhibtion) in France when I visited with the Department for International Trade on a trade mission.

When did you start exporting to Portugal and how did you enter the market?

The initial order was in October 2012 and we entered the market via a distributor called Socilink. 

Did you encounter any barriers and how did you overcome these?

Yes – our biggest barrier was the Portuguese economy. Portugal’s economy was shot to pieces during the recession so we had to agree a pricing structure appreciating their situation. This has proven successful over the years and continues to this day.

Did you receive any external support to help you trade in Portugal? 

No, however, the opportunity to attend a tradeshow through the Department for International Trade visit enabled me to have a face to face meeting. 

What does the future hold for LittlePod? 

As the economy improves, we hope to work with Antonio to enter Spain and Brazil. I'm also stepping back as the Executive Chair of the business, and helped train up Olly Aplin to be our new CEO to take the company forward in the future.

Can you offer any tips to businesses looking to export their goods/services to Portugal?

  1. If it is a product in the baking arena remember Portugal is a leader in this field.
  2. Portugal’s economy has recovered somewhat, but not enough. You need to have a good plan in place and research is key.
  3. Relationships are very important to the Portuguese so try to keep in constant communication. They are certainly a lively bunch!
  4. Offer to translate labels, at least the ingredients!
  5. If you have a Queen’s Award, like LittlePod, remember they LOVE the Queen.
  • Looking to start selling or expand your exports in Europe?

    Our International Trade Advisers in the South West can answer your questions and assess your export capabilities if you're looking to export your goods or services to Europe.

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  • You need to have realistic expectations when exporting as there is a lot to consider. But the effort is definitely worth it, and I found it invaluable to have DIT working alongside me when I was taking those first tentative steps.
    Export - Janet Sawyer LittlePod
    Janet Sawyer
    Managing Director