RWC presents chance for Welsh food and drink producers

June 28, 2019

Delegation in Tokyo to strengthen export links

The Welsh Government’s first trade delegation to Japan dedicated to food and drink arrived in Tokyo on June 16, hopeful of tapping the Rugby World Cup (RWC) to drive interest in Wales’ produce. 

Welcoming importers, distributors, restaurateurs and other business representatives to a reception at the British Embassy, Tokyo, Mark Hughes, senior manager export at the food division of the Welsh Government, said the RWC and Tokyo 2020 are driving great interest in Wales. Consumers are curious about Welsh food and drink, and importers are looking for more Welsh products, which prompted the decision to support a delegation of solely food and drink producers for the first time.

“What better time to be here and bring our produce? I know it is the right time to be in Japan,” he said, citing delegates’ success at meetings discussing collaborations related to the RWC. 

Those delegates are representatives of Aber Falls Distillery, Gower Brewery Company, Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), Purple Moose Brewery and Welsh Lady Preserves. Though the products vary widely, they all exude quality, reputation and provenance, which the Welsh Government hopes will appeal to the mature, discerning Japanese market.

With the lifting of an import ban on British lamb in January, Deanna Jones, export market development executive for Meat Promotion Wales, said work is underway to “position Welsh lamb as a premium brand” in Japan.

Though sheepmeat consumption is low, it is growing, largely due to the proliferation of BBQ restaurants and lamb fairs held by Australian and New Zealand lamb producers at events related to the RWC. According to Jones, growing interest in Wales, coupled with Japanese people’s love of Welsh lamb’s mild flavour, makes the country a promising market for Welsh producers.

Carol Jones of Welsh Lady Preserves, the largest producer of sweet preserves and condiments in Wales, is also hopeful ahead of the RWC.

“The Japanese people show great respect towards Wales. They appreciate that we have a language and colourful culture that is unique as well as history and traditions, which they value. They also share our passion for rugby,” she said.

As the official suppliers of strawberry jam and marmalade to the British Olympic team at London 2012, she is also eyeing the chance to again supply the team, this time at Tokyo 2020.

With sustainability of growing concern to businesses, delegates also introduced their companies’ responsible business practices. For example, Welsh Lady Preserves sends no waste to landfill and whiskey and gin maker Aber Falls Distillery powers its operations via on-site hydropower and is building a visitor centre to support local tourism.

For reception attendees, delegates therefore showcased not only their produce but also the rich ecosystem of thriving small and medium sizes businesses across Wales.

Indeed, Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Minister of the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said the trade mission is helping to “put Wales on the map” in Japan.

“With the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan later this year and the Olympics next year, [the trade mission] presents an exciting opportunity for Welsh food and drink exporters to present their products to importers from around the world,” she added.

Welsh Government representative to Japan Robin Walker also noted that events such as the RWC is giving Wales an opportunity to raise its profile in Japan.

“This year, Japanese people will discover Wales through rugby, but the journey doesn’t end there,” he said, noting his office’s efforts to use the global sporting event to promote trade, education and tourism links between Wales and Japan.

Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ