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4 Jun 2024 • 4 min read

Behind the Curtain of Little Beauties' Export Adventure

Danny Parker

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Exporting a Family Business Overseas

Expanding beyond NZ into the Global export market can be daunting yet, Tristan Wastney co-founder of Little Beauties has been through this challenging journey, transforming a family-run venture into an international success. In this blog, we delve into Tristan's experiences, uncovering the motivations, strategies, and lessons learned during Little Beauties' expansion into global markets. From overcoming logistical hurdles to leveraging local support, Tristan's story offers insights of what it takes to make a mark on an international market.

Little Beauties is a family-owned business based in Nelson, New Zealand, specialising in premium dried fruit products. Founded in 2010 by Tristan Wastney and his family, the company transforms locally grown fruits, particularly feijoas, into high-quality, chocolate-dipped treats. Little Beauties aims to reduce fruit waste while delivering delicious and healthy snacks to consumers both locally and internationally.

"I feed a lot of fruit to my cows... And so saw the opportunity to take that fruit and do something with it. And so that kicked off little beauties. My wife had the great idea of dipping them in chocolate!"

For Little Beauties, the motivation to expand internationally stemmed from the limitations of the New Zealand market. As a niche product focused on premium dried fruit, the local market size just wasn't large enough for the company's growth ambitions. Tristan and his team recognised early on that to scale effectively and address the significant waste of local fruit, they needed to look beyond New Zealand.

Exporting to USA

The decision to target the US market was influenced by promising feedback from American tourists and online customers willing to pay high shipping costs for their products. 

Initial market research, including a visit to Boulder, Colorado—a hub for organic products—reinforced their belief in the US market's potential. Known for its focus on organic products, Boulder, Colorado, provided valuable insights and confirmed the market potential for their premium dried fruits.

In addition to in-person research, Little Beauties leveraged online sales and customer feedback to gauge interest. They received enthusiastic responses from US-based consumers, including tourists who had tried their products in New Zealand and were eager to purchase them back home. This direct feedback was instrumental in shaping their strategy.

The team also experimented with shipping small quantities to the US, testing logistics and consumer demand. These initial steps allowed them to adapt their products and packaging to meet market preferences and regulatory requirements, setting the foundation for a more informed and targeted expansion strategy.

"I certainly wouldn't recommend going to the US as your first country to export to. It's probably one of the hardest countries to export to, from my own personal experience. And we've exported Japan, China, Vietnam and Australia. So I guess if you're thinking of exporting, I think Australia is a really good place to start."

Navigating the Challenges of USA

Expanding into the US market presented them with numerous challenges, particularly in logistics and regulatory compliance. One significant hurdle was managing the complexities of shipping their chocolate-covered products without melting, especially during extended transit times exacerbated by COVID-19 disruptions. Tristan's team had to think creatively, including using ice packs and ensuring their 3PL partners had proper storage facilities.

Additionally, navigating the FDA registration process and meeting US packaging standards required significant effort and adaptation. They faced unexpected differences in consumer demographics, with US buyers differing markedly from their New Zealand counterparts. This required a swift adjustment in marketing strategies and product presentation.

The high costs of logistics and setting up a reliable distribution network were also daunting. Despite these obstacles, Tristan and his team persevered by continuously learning and adapting, demonstrating resilience and ingenuity in overcoming the myriad challenges of international expansion.

Local Support For Exporting Overseas

The support of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) played a crucial role in Little Beauties' international expansion. NZTE provided invaluable resources, including specialised advice on logistics, market entry strategies, and regulatory compliance. Their global network allowed Tristan's team to connect with experts who had deep insights into the US market, helping to navigate the complexities of exporting.

NZTE's assistance extended to practical support as well. They facilitated connections with reliable 3PL providers and helped the team understand cost structures and logistical options. This support was especially critical during the challenging early stages of expansion, offering guidance that would have been difficult to source independently.

Beyond NZTE, Little Beauties benefited from collaborating with other businesses and leveraging shared knowledge. Participating in international trade shows and seeking advice from experienced exporters provided additional insights and networking opportunities. This combination of formal support and peer learning proved essential in overcoming the hurdles of entering a new market.

"The other key thing is having a good margin. If you don't have a good margin, then it simply won't work."

Invaluable Lessons for New Exporters

Tristan's journey with Little Beauties offers several key learnings for aspiring exporters. First and foremost, having strong margins is essential. Without sufficient profit margins, the high costs associated with international logistics and marketing can quickly erode profitability.

Understanding the target market is another critical lesson. Little Beauties initially misjudged their US demographic, discovering that the profile of their American customers differed significantly from their New Zealand base. Thorough market research and testing are crucial to tailor products and marketing strategies effectively.

Tristan also emphasises the importance of logistical planning. Ensuring reliable and efficient shipping and storage solutions can prevent costly delays and product spoilage. Leveraging local support, such as NZTE, can provide necessary guidance and connections.

From market research to leveraging local support and overcoming logistical hurdles, Tristan's experiences offer valuable lessons for NZ businesses with export ambitions. By understanding their market, maintaining strong margins, and remaining adaptable, aspiring exporters can navigate the complexities of new markets. Tristan's story serves as both an inspiration and a practical guide, emphasising that with the right approach and support, other New Zealand businesses can also make their mark in the US and other markets.

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