Emma Turos, Executive Director of the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce told in the publication for the Magazine “All for the Food and Processing Industry” about the SIAL 2018 Confectionery Exhibition in Montreal, which was attended by 7 Ukrainian companies. What confectionery manufacturers should focus on trying to win the Canadian market and what mistakes should be avoided.

On August 1, 2017, the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine entered into force, which opened new opportunities for domestic companies to export to the promising Canadian market. The Agreement, in particular, provides for the abolition of import duties for 98% of Ukrainian goods.

The Canadian-Ukrainian Trade and Investment Support Project (CUTIS) is a powerful additional tool for export development into Canada. CUTIS is a five-year (2016 – 2021) international technical assistance project funded by the Canadian Government through the Canadian Ministry of International Affairs and implemented by the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with the Canadian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, CUTIS is implementing the first phase of the export support program for Canada – U CAN EXPORT, in five priority sectors: clothing, footwear, furniture, confectionery and IT sector.

Confectionery as a priority

Why did small and medium-sized confectionery producers fall into the focus of the Project? There were several reasons. First, the export experience – many Ukrainian sweets are already present on the Canadian market and have their customers. Secondly, the readiness of the industry in terms of compliance with the technical regulations, availability of certificates, as well as the lack of restrictions on the part of Canada.

How were Ukrainian companies selected? Maximum transparency. Advertisements were posted on the web resources of the Project, almost all chambers of commerce and industry associations. Information was also disseminated at meetings of the Project participants with business.

After receiving applications from interested companies, there were two stages of selection. By the way, the backup selection continues. Any company from the 5 priority sectors can submit its application through the Project website by filling out a simple questionnaire.

As a result, 10 companies were selected and recommended to take part in one of the largest exhibitions in Canada – SIAL 2018 Montreal. For the selected companies, one-day training was conducted with the participation of a leading Canadian expert.

Exhibition participants

They were mostly medium-sized businesses, because they have resources to work in foreign markets. However, there were also small family businesses that offer a unique product.

We tried to present a very wide range of products: cookies, bagels, gingerbreads, etc. for national shelves; sweets; snack group, chocolate bars; nuts and dried fruit bars, etc. Most companies already have experience working with Canada, have collaborated with distributors, without which operation on this market is impossible. The companies met the certification requirements, had a quality control system. Almost half of the companies at the exhibition were represented at the level of senior management and owners, all fluent in English.

The SIAL 2018 Montreal exhibited 7 Ukrainian companies among more than 1,000 participants from 50 countries, namely:

  • Beverages Plus (EAT ME sweets)
  • Zolote Zerno
  • Favorito
  • Khlibodar
  • Biskvit-Shokolad

Participation in exhibitions is extremely important at the initial stage of entering a new market, as it is a great venue for meeting all the stakeholders including business representatives from all over Canada.

We had an intensive program that included training from a major retailer, meetings with retailer chain representatives, a tour of large retail stores (major chains, ethnic stores, discount stores, warehouses, distributors, etc.). We also had access to closed events organized not for general public by individual networks such as Metro. Also, bilateral meetings were held, which is the most important in any business mission.

Prospects for Ukrainian products

Ukrainian products have good prospects on the Canadian market because there is already a loyal clientele for our products. After the exhibition, Ukrainian producers received new supporters. Negotiations are under way that indicate that there is potential for increased sales.

What are the main advantages of Ukrainian products in Canada? I would point out the “European origin” of the product and the fact that almost everyone knows about Ukraine in Canada, unlike many other countries.

We should not forget about almost 1.3 million Canadians with Ukrainian roots. In addition, Ukrainian companies produce an interesting modern product. We have experts who are ready to work with Canada by informing manufacturers about the requirements and conditions of operation, packaging, marking and logistics.

Among the disadvantages, I would mention inconsistency and unreliability of Ukrainian companies, poor language skills and breach of ethics in doing business, which is often the case among Ukrainian companies. As a rule, we try to not work with such companies.

Sometimes one telephone call may be determining for the success or failure of a large delivery, so there are no trivialities in this process. All in all, we are talking about the development disease and the change of mentality from the “Russia-centered” policy of companies to conduct international business.

Advice for Ukrainian business

Participation in an exhibition is a proof of the product and company readiness to enter external markets. This is an important step that needs to be prepared. It takes about a year to prepare if the company has already identified the target market. You need to know your products, markets, competitors and prices perfectly.

Listen to your consumers and partners. Today, the consumer determines what to consume, what should be the product, its manufacturer and price. Consumers are the greatest experts because they vote with his own purses. A pragmatic approach and professionalism will help to adapt to the modern world transformations.

Also, in no case one can ignore the preparatory work for the trade show – research, product selection and adaptation to the relevant market (do not try to present everything), determining the number of samples, marketing materials. Local expert advice may be helpful, but such services are expensive. It is important to make sure that such specialists can help invite potential buyers to the stands and organize meetings during the exhibition. This work in Canada starts about three months before the trade show.

Another important point is that nobody will come to the meeting unless you agree in advance – about a month before. In Canada, people plan their time. A meeting can take 5-10 minutes. Be prepared to provide all the necessary information and demonstrate materials during this time. Your staff should know the answers to questions about prices, logistics, certificates, etc. Canada is a market for companies with experience and resources for development.

As part of the CUTIS project, we have trained consultants to help businesses in the regions get to know the benefits of the Canadian market. Most of them are representatives of chambers of commerce and industry. Pilot training in regions will begin shortly. Interested business people will be able to take part in such training sessions for free. The schedule of training will be available very soon on the Project’s web resources.