By Kate Madley
Rare hand-crafted Welsh gold jewellery, advanced semiconductor wafers and preservative chemicals used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry are among the diverse range of products that will be promoted in Japan this week.
Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, leads a multi-sector trade and investment mission to Tokyo (10-16 June), accompanied by eight Welsh businesses.
One of those businesses is Clogau Gold. Keen to expand its operations in the Far East, the visit will provide Aran Turner, the Bodelwyddan -based company’s international service manager, the opportunity to explore the Japanese market in more detail.
“I am hoping to learn more about the Japanese market and customs,” says Mr Turner.
“Working within the jewellery, brands and fashion world I think it’s important to see a brand working in its natural environment to understand how a jewellery stockist positions a brand and how the customer reacts to it.
“Clogau are looking to partner with a choice of three distributors at present but before the business makes the decision, key members of the team need to familiarise themselves with cultures and customs. Currently we do a small amount of business in Japan but based on our success we are looking to build on this quickly.”
Clogau currently exports to Dubai and has recently opened a shop in Beijing airport.
“We have a member of the International team who resides within Europe who frequently travels to Japan for exhibitions and visiting customers,” adds Mr Turner.
“Japan is one of the more fashion conscious countries in Asia. It forms a key part of our strategy to be popular here before we can expand further in other countries such as China, who see Japan as a conduit for brands that later become fashionable in People’s Republic of China.”
Abergavenny Fine Foods are also in Japan this week to further develop links in the market. The family-owned business started life as a farm-based producer of goats’ cheese in 1981 and now produces a range of products including dairy, desserts and party food. Its customers include Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Costco, Pizza Hut and Burger King.
“As one of the area’s largest employers in the food industry, export growth is critical to our continued success,” says Bryson Craske, commercial director of Abergavenny Fine Foods.
“Current value of export is approximately £2m or 11% of total turnover, and we are working with customers in the USA, Canada, Taiwan, Korea, Australia and the UAE. Forecast growth in export is anticipated at a further 50% over the next 12 months.
“Japan is a key target market for us over the next 12 months. Japanese culture and tastes have changed dramatically in regards to dairy products, and we have seen an increase in the number of requests received from this market.
“The trade mission will allow us both to further our investigation into these changes and also allow us to meet specific buyers.”
The Welsh Government programme includes a business reception at the British Embassy for 200 business guests to promote Wales and Welsh products.
“Trading internationally not only opens up new opportunities but exports are vital for the economy and in 2012 businesses in Wales exported £274m of manufactured goods to Japan which have increased by £220m since 1999, making it our 10th largest export market,” says Edwina Hart.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world and the high-tech powerhouse of Asia. It also boats the second highest spend on R&D worldwide and is home to a number of international businesses.
“The mission also coincides with the 40th anniversary of Sony’s decision to open its first European facility in Wales which was followed by numerous other Japanese businesses,” adds Mrs Hart. “Last year there were 50 Japanese owned businesses active in Wales, employing more than 6,000 people and I am delighted to use this opportunity to build on these long established links between our two countries.
“I shall look forward to meeting senior executives from a number of Japanese companies including Sony and Toyota – anchor companies that are of strategic importance to the Welsh economy – and Hitachi which is set to play a pivotal role in the proposed new nuclear build on Anglesey. Discussions will centre on future investment opportunities and how the Welsh Government can support any potential growth projects.”
The trade mission also coincides with the Welsh Rugby Union’s tour of Japan, and together the Welsh Government and WRU hope to make a lasting impression on business partners in the region.
“The support provided by both the WRU and the Welsh Minister will help provide a high profile backdrop to ensure that Wales is put firmly on the map, and is a fantastic example of how sport and business can work hand in hand to drive continued growth for Wales and its economy,” says Mr Craske.