How two South West companies are contributing to a greener world through international trade

28th June 2021

Just over two weeks ago, the leaders of the G7 ended the three-day meeting with a diverse set of initiatives including a plan to tackle climate change with technology and money. The world leaders outlined a commitment to set net-zero targets for energy generation by 2030 and stated that strategies would be published outlining how efforts to deliver a transition to net-zero can be achieved.

This came after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss chaired a minsters’ meeting last month, setting out an ambitious agenda to work with G7 countries and the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) new Director General to reform global trade. 

We spoke to two companies exporting to the US (a member of the G7) who share sustainable values.

Atlantic Blankets

Atlantic Blankets was established ten years ago after the brand was bought from its previous owner. Alistair says: “We took it on and transformed it and we’ve just introduced a lot more products and fine-tuned our USP of sustainable production using British fabric.”

The company is committed to sustainable practices, such as using recycled materials and ensuring the blankets are durable, therefore combatting a fast-fashion and throwaway culture. The blankets are also made from 100% wool which does not negatively impact the planet unlike some synthetic fabrics which cannot decompose.  

The company targeted the US as it is English speaking country which Alistair says “made it much easier on the communication front. It’s also a buoyant, wealthy economy and there’s lots of people who live in the US such as expats who are still connected to Britain and British values.”

“Our brand also really fits in with some major coastal and city areas in the states. The fact that Atlantic is in our brand name is a good connection for US consumers.”

The company was approached by Ben Leonard, its International Trade Adviser from DIT (Department for International Trade) who supported the business to go to the Now Show in New York, Manhattan. Alistair says:

“We got a lot of stockists interested and forward momentum from this and this is why the main focus is on the US at the moment.

“We’ve also received a lot of support from DIT on export pricing, duties and taxes, and more general advice on what kind of product ranges we should be introducing to markets. 

“We are going to be speaking more to DIT about getting a distribution centre set up in the US.”

Alistair has four essential bits of advice for companies looking to trade with the US:

“Speak to DIT to get some help and advice and do your research. Go to a trade show and speak to people and get out there and test the market. I’ve met people who came when we were exhibiting just to walk around and speak to UK sellers and ask for advice. 

“The market is huge and there are third party seller sites for wholesalers, such as Fare, which is really beneficial to be listed on. You can get large, frequent orders on here.”


Sam and Will Boex founded the business on the back of a poor experience buying surf boards online. The board came wrapped in single use plastic and they came up with the concept of creating a more sustainable way to protect products that is 100% plastic-free, recyclable, and biodegradable, with far less impact on the environment.

Starting with surfboards, Flexi-Hex now offers sustainable bottle packaging made from 100% recycled paper content.. The company now wraps alcoholic beverages in sustainable material and due to success in the UK, it is now focusing its efforts on growing in the US market. Its sales are forecast at 24 million over the next five years.

Steve Trethowan the company’s Head of Global Sales says:

“We had really good traction and sales growth in the UK so we started to look at similar markets where there was good demand and a simple route to market, such as the US which is English speaking and where there is a strong demand for alcohol packaging solutions.

“I’ve met with Ben Leonard from DIT who has supported us with networking with like-minded distributors. 

The company has experienced huge growth during COVID as the demand for alcoholic delivery online has driven the need for sustainable packaging in the drinks space. 

The company’s exports to the US have been growing 300 % year on year while a 1/3 of its sales are made up of US exports. 

Steve says that both demand due to COVID and changes in legislation in the US have driven this growth. The US government has softened some of its prohibition laws. Before, people were not able to get door-to-door alcohol delivery as direct-to-consumer alcohol delivery was restricted.  

In terms of advice he would give to other companies looking to export he says:

“We really understood the market and reached out to DIT to understand our key targets and the landscape. 

“It’s also important to understand the barriers and how you can overcome these. Country of origin rules have been an issue for us as there are some tariffs on products going into the US from China. 

“But this has helped us shape our strategy in terms of getting products made in the US rather than China.

Ben Leonard said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with two companies who are committed to sustainability during a time when the global focus is on reducing emissions to halt the negative impact of climate change.

“I would encourage companies with similar values to work with DIT to identify lucrative markets to drive international trade while encouraging consumers across the world to choose greener products.”

To discuss your own export development options and find out more about the support available from DIT,  call 01275 370944, email or visit

DIT’s services in the South West are delivered by Business West. For further information, click here.

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