They've caught a whopper! Prestigious Whitehall recognition for Grimsby bird food and bait exporter

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 6 Apr 2018

One of Grimsby’s longest standing family businesses has been recognised for its outstanding contribution to international trade and investment in a UK first.

Haith’s, the birdseed and bait producer, has received one of only four Board of Trade Awards, a new accolade launched by International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox.

Brought forward to celebrate success of top-performing companies, the Europarc business of 81 years standing is in the first tranche, having already been used as a case study and made a Northern Powerhouse export champion as the UK gears up to capitalise on global expansion post-Brexit. 

NEW PREMISES: Haith's moved to Europarc in 2008.

Associate director, Simon King, who collected the accolade, said: “When I think of the dynamic businesses operating within Yorkshire shire and the Humber, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and proud for Haith’s to be the only exporter in the region recognised with a Board of Trade Award for 2018. 

“We take exporting seriously, and every member of the Haith’s team goes out of their way to ‘wow’ our overseas clients. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve invested in our brands and protected our intellectual property overseas. But we’ve trusted our genuine clients enough to give them space to make great products with our ingredients and in return, we’ve earned their trust. 

“Our formula is simple: Great products, great service and eyes in the back of our heads! And that’s where the services of the Department for International Trade have added tremendous value – they’ve helped us to focus; they’ve challenged us to get out of the office and shake hands with business owners who very much feel Britain is great. It’s always a team effort.” 

The creation of an export strategy to expand the business beyond Britain helped, and in the past 18 months Haith’s has generated more than £60,000 from new accounts, with these orders going on to become long-term clients that are now building their ranges around Haith’s products. 

BAIT MIX: Haith's products.

Described as a “hallmark of British quality,” Dr Fox said the awards will become a globally-recognised certificate of excellence, shown on product labels of successful businesses of every size and from every corner of the UK.

Speaking at the event, Dr Fox said: “As the UK’s international economic department, DIT is creating the global appetite for British goods and services, and attracting record investment into the UK. Today we are celebrating those companies who have demonstrated exceptional innovation, generating prosperity for their local communities.”

Turning his attention to Haith’s, Dr Fox said: “The judging panel was particularly impressed with the way in which Haith’s has grown from being a well-established brand in the UK to a successful exporter and recognised brand overseas in recent years. The judges commented on the company’s notable ambition and innovative approach to opening up opportunities overseas via e-commerce.”

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: David Haith, celebrating 75 years back in 2012.

Since its creation following the EU referendum, DIT – an advancement of UK Trade and Investment – has helped thousands of UK companies to start or grow their exports. Last year it helped British businesses secure nearly 10,000 deals, worth tens of billions of pounds, and attracted 1,859 investment projects – creating 64,000 new jobs and safeguarding a further 28,000, while planning the UK’s future trade policy.

The event was held at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. Haith’s was joined by The Anglesey Sea Salt Company – a supplier to Elsham Wold’s Pipers Crisps; London-based engineering group Arup, and Gateshead creative agency Blue Kangaroo Design.

Haith’s journey from Park Street to carp bait via the internet super highway

Founded in 1937, Haith’s supplies many of the UK’s most successful bird-keepers and bird-breeders, while exporting Superclean bird foods across the globe, focusing on high quality dietary requirements.

It moved from premises in Cleethorpes’ Park Street to a purpose-built facility on Europarc, Grimsby, in 2008, during a period of sustained growth with celebrity twitcher Bill Oddie, pictured, as a brand ambassador.

The diversification from bird food to fishing was built on the development of modern boiled baits in the Seventies, and the first specialised carp fishing bait base mixes were formed using Haith’s bird food ingredients intended for feeding to cage and aviary birds. These ultimately came to be known as bird food baits and, 40 years on, they remain one of the most popular carp fishing baits in current use across Europe.

In 2015 Haith’s launched its own brand, Robin Red, as baits accounted for 25 per cent of turnover.

At the time, Mr King said: “In the Seventies, a local angler, Rod Hutchinson, experimented with bird feeds and then other recreational anglers took our lines and made their own feed. They did that because it was clean, nutritional, and we’ve been feeding the birds since 1937. We’re tried and tested and, if it is safe for birds, it is safe for many things.

“In 2000, we started to isolate the range and highlight to bait markets in the UK what products they could use to make better baits, safer and more nutritional baits. For carp fishing in particular, they are throwing so much bait in it has to be clean, it has to be doing no harm, and carp are re-caught several times in their lifetime.”

A fishing-specific website was launched, with translation to key languages, then international search engine optimisation and other traditional marketing tactics too, including taking in several large European angling shows.

Working with DIT as it is now known since 2012, Haith’s has gone from Export Communication Review and Passport to Export schemes, with advice and support on how to export and continue helping them to grow their exports received from Duncan Slater.  

Recent notable wins have included fishing bait sales to Germany, Romania and France.

A 12 per cent uplift in overseas sales was reported in 2017, with US and Canadian markets now being monitored.

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