Skinners Brewery taps into Chinese market

Truro-based Skinner’s Brewery is now setting its sights on the Chinese market following a week-long trade mission to the country. 

Truro-based Skinner’s Brewery has invested in a new bottling plant to double its capacity and is now setting its sights on the Chinese market following a week-long trade mission to the country. 

The brewery makes award-winning beers from fresh Cornish ingredients and produces some of the South West’s most popular ales, including Betty Stogs and Cornish Knocker. The business supplies its cask ales and draught beers to restaurants, farm shops, pubs and hotels across the UK.

Skinner’s Brewery is now aiming for international expansion and is hoping to secure new contracts in China within the next 12 months. To support this, the business has invested in new equipment and sourced a new bottling plant in Truro.

The new equipment will allow the business to expand its production capacity by producing 330ml bottles of its beers in addition to the 500ml size it already produces and sells in the UK. The production of 330ml bottles will enable the businesses to enter new markets, such as China. The brewery learned that this smaller size is popular with Chinese consumers whilst on the visit to the country. 

The business has received support from advisers at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department for International Trade (DIT), who hosted the trade mission. The trip was part of the Food is GREAT campaign, the UK Government’s cross-department initiative to showcase UK food and drink overseas and to help firms to export.

The advisers have helped Skinner’s Brewery navigate the Chinese market, including helping to address concerns around the language barrier and legal and tax regulations, and sourcing a potential buyer.

Steve Skinner, Director at Skinner’s Brewery, said:

“We’ve experienced steady growth year-on-year, making now the ideal time to establish our brand overseas. The demand for British food and drink in China is growing rapidly and we’re looking forward to exporting our products this year.   

“One of the main reasons we hadn’t explored China in the past was a lack of understanding of the market. China is the world’s most populous country with significantly different cultural expectations, as well as strict regulations for ingredients. The recent trip to China gave us the opportunity to visit convenience stores and supermarkets to find out what the retail sector looks like in East Asia. It helped us come to the decision to create smaller bottles of beer for the Chinese market. 

“This isn’t the first time we’ve wanted to export our goods but success depends on having a network of experienced organisations and experts on hand to help you through the process. Having a strong relationship with the local DIT advisers meant we were introduced to the China-Britain Business Council and were able to meet potential customers during the trade mission. This has helped kick start negotiations with potential new buyers. If we can do it, so can many other local firms in the South West.”

Paul Shand, South West Regional Director, Department for International Trade, said:

“The recent trade mission to China shows how much opportunity there is for UK food and drink producers, and it’s encouraging to see Cornish brands like Skinner’s Brewery tapping into this growing trend with products that appeal to Chinese customers. 

“Trading in China is vastly different to selling products domestically, and businesses looking to export there will need to make sure their intellectual property rights are protected. They should also seek advice on any ingredient or product restrictions.

“Strategies to deal with the language barrier, time zone and tax regulations also need to be considered but businesses should be assured that support is available. Our 25 International Trade Advisers in the South West are on hand to help firms trade in new territories.”

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