A COTSWOLD firm is bringing its bakery products to a new international audience.

Huffkins has shipped a 1.7 tonne order of fruitcakes, shortbread and branded merchandise to Japan, with more orders already secured for October 2018 and into 2019.

Huffkins, which runs a bakery and three tea rooms including two in Cheltenham and one in Stow-on-the-Wold, secured the export deal after receiving support from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to attend the FOODEX trade show in Tokyo last March, as part of a delegation showcasing British food and drink to the Japanese market.

Following the trade show, Huffkins received strong interest from a number of Japanese food and drink distributors, one of which it secured a partnership with in October of last year.

The bakery’s products are now available in two high-end department stores in Tokyo, and as of this month will be for sale online through Huffkins’ Japanese distributor’s website.

In November, the distributor will also be opening a shop in central Tokyo, with a dedicated section for the bakery’s goods.

Over the next year the company will be looking to further expand its exports into Scandinavia and other European markets, as well as securing orders to Australia, Canada and Switzerland, which will be dispatched later this year.

This support comes as part of the Food is GREAT campaign, an ambitious programme run by Defra and DIT to showcase the UK’s food and drink abroad and encourage more businesses to consider exporting.

In October, the company is also opening a tea room in the brand new John Lewis store in Cheltenham.

Natasha Whittaker, head of wholesale and export at Huffkins, said: “Exporting has been a key element of Huffkins’ business strategy, and our new deal with Japan is a real opportunity for the business’ growth.

“The response we got from attending the FOODEX trade show in Tokyo was incredible. People were queuing up to get a taste of our goods, and it was clear that Japanese customers were very attracted to the fact that we were a British company offering an authentic product.

“Although there was clearly strong demand, there were still a few barriers we had to address in getting our products on Japanese shelves.

“The support of DIT here in the South West helped us get to Tokyo in the first place, but it has also provided us with access to UK Government support on the ground in Japan who could assist in co-ordinating with possible buyers and help overcome the language barrier."

Paul Shand, DIT’s head of South West, added: “Huffkins has been proactive in seeking out new business overseas, and are now reaping the rewards.

“There is currently huge demand for British food and drink overseas, with exports totalling £760m from the South West in the year to March 2018. Huffkins should be proud to be adding to this figure."