By Kate Madley

Two Welsh businesses say they are close to agreeing distribution partnerships in Japan following a visit to the country.

Bodelwyddan-based Clogau Gold and The Abergavenny Fine Food Co. were among a cohort of Welsh businesses that returned from a trade mission to Japan last month with success stories.

The Welsh Government-led visit was attended by Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, and eight Welsh companies in total, and Clogau Gold’s managing director, Ben Roberts, said the trip has already led to tentative deals being put in place.

“I was very excited by the trip and so were my colleagues to be part of such a trade mission,” he said.

“Japan has been the target of our international initiatives for a couple of years and so far we only deal with Japan Airlines.

“After using the trade mission to accustom ourselves to the Japanese culture we stayed on for three more days to meet with pre-arranged distributors.

“I am pleased to say we are now in the process of formalising the agreement and we go live in October this year with first year targets tentatively agreed already.

“Our strategy for 2013 is to concentrate on developing distributors to sell through on the high-street in various countries. Only time will tell if Clogau are a success in Japan but I’m sure that if we put the usual Clogau tenacity behind the project then it can’t possibly fail.”

The trade mission also proved to be a success for The Abergavenny Fine Food Co., who also agreed a tentative deal with membership warehouse Costco.

“Overall this was a very successful trip for Abergavenny,” said commercial director, Bryson Craske.

“It allowed us to further research the Japanese market and I spent a considerable amount of time in retail and foodservice outlets watching consumers, looking at packaging, presentation and continuing to further my understanding of the market in general.

“The highlight for Abergavenny, however, was the meeting that I had with Costco Japan in Kawasaki. Abergavenny do business with Costco in several other countries including the UK, Australia, Korea and Taiwan. Costco’s business in Japan continues to grow with three new warehouse openings this year alone so they are clearly someone who we were keen to see.

“Further to my initial visit in November of last year, this trade mission (in June) gave me the opportunity to re-visit Costco and to pick up on the issues discussed during our previous visit.

“It became very apparent to me that this second visit was well received by the buyer, almost as an indication of our seriousness to do business with them. The team were very warm and friendly and the meeting was very successful.

“The outcome of that meeting was that Costco Japan have indicated that they would like to take a trial order of a number of products from our Rodeo Joes range totalling approximately £250K. This initial order would be split over a three month period and will be subject to Abergavenny meeting all of the relevant compliance requirements and providing the necessary packaging and labelling to allow Costco to legally and simply import products into Japan.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us that really has only come about through the involvement of The Abergavenny Fine Food Co. in the trade mission.”

On her return to Wales, Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, said: “The relationship between Wales and Japan is warm and this continues to be one of our most important foreign partnerships.

“Innovative Japanese companies have been investing in Wales for more than 40 years. During my visit I met Toyota, Hitachi, Sony, Toyoda, G-Tekt, and others. Many Japanese firms have demonstrated their faith in the Welsh workforce over many years and I used the opportunity to emphasise the Welsh Government’s equal commitment to long term partnership.

“I was particularly pleased to meet Hitachi to discuss their investment plans in nuclear energy on Ynys Môn. Subject to approvals from UK regulatory authorities, and agreement with the UK Government on energy price strategy, Hitachi’s investment in Wylfa has the potential to be one of Wales’ most important inward investments. There will be a significant role for the Welsh Government in supporting this investment through a range of micro-economic actions.

“Wales enjoys a strong reputation with Japanese business, as evidenced by the continuing flow of long-term investment. The Welsh Government is committed to maintaining and developing our relationships with our Japanese investors, both old and new. Our two countries have mutually benefitted from these relationships for more than 40 years and we aim for many more years of co-operation and enterprise.”

The Welsh Government is leading a comprehensive overseas events programme this year, with more than 40 international trade missions and fairs planned. For full details of the overseas events programme visit www.walesworldwide.org/calendar.