What if you could bottle the clean crisp flavour of freshly picked apples, the juicy taste of ripe pears, or the subtle sweetness of strawberries and magically deliver it as an alcoholic drink, on demand at a competitive price across Asia?
This was the vision of Cider Orchard Exports, to make English premium cider in Cambodia and become the No1 cider brand in Asia.
With the help of award-winning Bristol-born Master Cider Makers, Brian and Steven Brunt, three flavours of cider were created especially for the Asian market and bottled under the brand name Bruntys. Brian has over 30 years experience making cider and was awarded England’s National CAMRA winner for the best pear cider in 2009 – that’s why we named our cider after him.
In 2013, Bruntys began making cider at a state-of-the-art brewery in the capital of Cambodia using only the finest ingredients imported from Europe.
Since the production of the first bottle in May 2013, Bruntys premium cider is enjoying fantastic success all across Cambodia with the local Khmers, expats and tourists. Bruntys is now the No1 cider brand in Cambodia. Further to this success, Bruntys is now being exported to Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Laos and is looking towards entering Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines – our “top 10” target to sell Bruntys in ten Asian countries by the end of summer 2014.
Since starting this journey in 2011 we have had many experiences and challenges which have helped shaped our success. Here are some of our tips for doing business in Cambodia and across Asia – not in any particular order but all worth considering…
- Research your market well – Asian tastes are different to the UK. Originally we had planned to launch Mango as our exotic flavour after pear and apple. But extensive local research clearly showed that the third flavour had to be strawberry. This research has proved correct with strawberry sales matching the other two flavours and a real favourite with the South Koreans.
- Seek the assistance of the UK-ASEAN Business Council and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – they can provide some excellent local contacts across all aspects of the business including sales, export, distribution and local government. Our visit by the British Ambassador which was organised by UKTI in Cambodia provided a great photo PR opportunity and a boost to all the staff in the factory.
- Seek local business advice – there are many forms and certificates that you will need to set up your business in Cambodia and these companies will help you understand what you need to do, who to speak to and more importantly help you fill out the forms.
- Use the best ingredients – by importing our fruits from the best orchards in Europe we have been able to deliver a truly authentic English premium quality cider and all our flavours taste great – a dry apple, medium sweet pear and sweet strawberry.
- Export and import is different in every country – make sure you partner with local experts both in the UK and abroad. We found it useful to work with a UK freight forwarder partnered with our logistics company in Cambodia. It certainly makes sure all the paperwork is done properly. Very importantly, although the paperwork for export from Cambodia is consistent, make sure you check the requirements for each country – each one can give you an unexpected surprise if you haven’t done your homework. Working with a recommended local import agent will help.
- Engage local experts – this is common sense really and we have benefited from recruiting local experts with a proven track record to help us run our business and deliver our sales strategy.
- Saving face – this is something that needs to be understood if you don’t want to seriously offend the locals. If things go wrong, and they will, work out the solution together without pointing the finger of blame.
- Communication between the UK and Asia can be difficult – the time difference is 7-8 hours. There are loads of ways to overcome this. We have daily Skype meetings – it’s free video conferencing with your Wi-Fi. There are many other ways to communicate for free too including We Chat, Viber and QQ in China.
- Make sure you learn a few words of the local language – everyone appreciates the effort and it always starts a conversation with a smile – especially when you get it wrong.