Establishing an artisanal brand across Southeast Asia

Client Background

An Austrian specialty foods manufacturer

The client is an Austrian manufacturer of Italian specialty foods, including pasta, olive oil, vinegar, and a whole host of other packaged goods. The client’s products are sold under a small artisanal brand, positioned at the top end of the mass market segment. Around 90% of the client company’s business is exports, primarily within Europe and to other Western markets. 


Strategic entry into Southeast Asia

The client wanted to expand their presence in Asia. They already had a small presence in China and had done a bit of market exploration in South Korea, but were unable to differentiate themselves in the Korean market. As a result, they wanted to explore other markets in the region, Southeast Asia in particular. They were especially keen on gaining a foothold into Southeast Asia through Bali as the province is home to a number of foreign-owned hotels and is a major tourist destination.


Kathryn Read

The expert to work with this client was Kathryn Read, the owner of Kathryn Read Consulting and a seasoned international business consultant with over 25 years of experience in export and business development in over 150 countries. 

Kathryn provides expert guidance and support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to expand to Europe and Asia. Her services include consulting for export and international expansion and executive mentoring for global sales and development. Additionally, she serves as a Consultant/Partner at Uniconsult-Wick & Partner, where she leverages her extensive experience to help SMEs overcome the challenges of expanding internationally and helps identify and find the right distribution partners.

Kathryn's career includes being the Head of Sales at HiPP Austria GmbH, where she was responsible for sales and marketing in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, Near-East, and Asia markets. 


A tailored approach to market entry

As the client wanted to expand into Southeast Asia, the very first task for Kathryn was to work with the client to shortlist Southeast Asian markets that would be the priority. This was based on which markets would be the best fit for the company’s range of products. 

Once the target markets were finally selected – Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand – Kathryn’s work involved analyzing the main competitors for the client in each market as well as briefing them on the retail landscape. Based on the competitor analysis, Kathryn made a target product price calculation, working backwards from the client’s ideal pricing for each of the target markets. Kathryn also worked with the client to understand what they saw as the ideal clients and how they wanted to work with distribution partners. 

When these details were ironed out,  Kathryn started looking for potential distributors in these markets. Once she had a shortlist of distributors who were interested in the product, she worked with the client to select one distributor who had exclusivity from the beginning but didn't actually have an exclusive contract. Instead, the selected distributor was given a trial contract. After the distributor was selected, she coordinated between the client and the distributor to sort out the first orders, registration of the products, various certificates, launch plans, marketing activities, and so on. 

Kathryn also studied the regulatory environment in the three countries and worked closely with the clients to identify any potential risks that might appear in the process. As the client already had significant experience in exporting to other countries, they already had several processes in place or were aware of them. 


One specific challenge for this project was linked to exporting to Indonesia. The country’s regulations mandate that all foods need to be halal, not just meat. However, the client was already familiar with the process of obtaining the certification, which made things easier.

It also took a lot of time to get product registrations for both Indonesia and Thailand. However, as Kathryn had import partners with a good track record of registering documents and strong connections with relevant departments, the process was made smoother.


Breaking into new markets

Kathryn was able to get the client’s products into Singapore within just three months. It took six months to enter Thailand and nine months to enter Indonesia. 

For Indonesia, she was able to also leverage support from the Austrian Overseas Chamber of Commerce, which is very active abroad and offers support to Austrian companies. In this case, they were able to point Kathryn in the direction of distributors who were suitable for the products in question. This too aided the entry process into Indonesia.

  • In Singapore, the products have been launched and are starting to make progress in terms of brand awareness.
  • In Indonesia, the products are being sold in several larger supermarkets and are also being used in higher-end hotels in Bali that have Italian restaurants on site. 
  • In Thailand, the products are just starting to be added to the listings

We approached Kathryn due to her expertise in the Asian region. She has a deep knowledge of the markets, with a wide network of good contacts. Working with Kathryn was made easy for us due to her active approach and solution-oriented attitude.

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