Somerset company keeps pets across the world healthy during COVID-19

Author
Zoe Bagnall
Content and PR Executive | Business West
26th July 2021

A company based in Somerset has broken into the US market with the support of The Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of the drive to level up businesses in the region.

In the past year exports of Hilton Herb’s natural supplements for animals have grown by 27% to the US, and its sales to the market are expected to reach over £1.15 million by 2025.

The company was established 32 years ago by Hilary and Tony Self after their horse developed an arthritic condition. Hilary said:

“I’d always been interested in complementary healthcare and therapies, so I decided to put together a herbal mix for him. The horse’s condition improved after receiving the herbal supplement and he lived on until a ripe old age. 

“Other people then asked if we could make specific mixes for their horses and that’s how it all started.”

Hilary and Tony then started attending horse shows and approached some larger companies who were interested in their products and the company began to grow exponentially. They now create and manufacture herbal supplements for dogs, cats, poultry, and birds.

The company first began exporting to the US after being contacted by a small family run business in Santa Fe, New Mexico who published a catalogue focusing on natural healthcare for horses, who had seen an advert about Hilton Herbs in Horse and Hound.

As part of the government’s Levelling Up programme, DIT supported Hilton Herbs to attend trade shows in the US to make potential buyers aware of their products and drive sales. DIT also helped the company to develop key relationships. Hilary said:

“We wanted to identify potential contacts so were put in touch with the British embassy in the US who were able to give us lists of people who we could link up with. 

“We received support through DIT to help us with costs of attending shows such as AITA in Pennsylvania, which is a big market for equestrian. We also attended a trade pet show called Global Pet in Florida in Orange County which helped us develop key contacts.”

The company has also been supported by DIT to export to Europe. The company’s International Trade Adviser (ITA), Hilary Charman, helped the company to continue to supply their EU market. Hilary said:

“DIT helped us to find a logistics company which supported us to research and fulfil the paperwork that was needed and put us in touch with a European import agent to get pre-clearance in place. 

“Hilary Charman has been fantastic, you can bounce ideas off her and ask questions, and through networking she put us in touch with other South West companies who were having similar problems.

“It has enabled us to get a footing in the market and get our products in front of people who we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”

The company’s exports in the last year have grown by 50% to Europe and by 13% to non-EU countries, while exports to the US have grown by 27%. 

Hilary attributes this growth to people staying at home and being more focused on their pets and animals. She also explains that because of the concerns people have over the pandemic, they have really started to look at natural products and the importance of using better quality food. 

She offers some top tips for businesses looking to export to the US:

“The most important thing is to get your ducks in a row. Do the groundwork first so you know exactly what you’re looking at. Secondly, you need to find out what the legal issues are for the products that you’re exporting. 

“Try and get to the country and go to the trade shows, even if you are just wandering around because then you get an idea of the competition. 

“Also, get yourself a distributor, try and find someone who can get the products distributed around the country quickly. Back in 2009 we set up a fulfilment centre in the US so we had a place we could ship to and get orders out fast.

“If you suddenly find something takes off but you can’t get the stocks out quickly enough, this can make things difficult. With the delays to transportation caused by COVID, a container leaving the UK that would usually take up to 20 days door to door is now taking 40 days or more!

“Finally, get in touch with DIT. They can put you in touch with people in countries who will be able to give you the information on the ground. I really cannot praise Hilary Charman and DIT enough for the support they’ve given us.”

To discuss your own export development options and find out more about the support available from DIT,  call 01275 370944, email ditsw@mobile.trade.gov.uk or visit www.great.gov.uk/advice.

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

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