Asian Sun Shines on Bangor Shamrock Biscuit Business

Shamrock-shaped shortbread from Grace’s Traditional Irish Biscuits in Bangor is now being enjoyed by consumers in Japan.

The company, which has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop its international marketing activities, has won a series of orders from Osaka-based Otomo Shoji for its distinctively shaped shortbread and oatmeal biscuits from an initial internet enquiry.

Grace’s success in Japan was announced by Managing Director William Bullock and welcomed by Peter McArdle, Acting Director of Invest NI Food and Tourism Division.

Mr Bullock, commenting on the business in Japan, said: “We were approached by Naoko Yamaguchi, the managing director of the family-owned retail business which has around 100 outlets in Japan.

“She was searching for traditional Irish biscuits to add to their portfolio of quality UK brands and was intrigued in particular by our distinctive shamrock shape of premium shortbread and oatmeal products.

“Following the initial order, repeat business has followed because of the success of the biscuits with Japanese consumers. It’s tremendously encouraging for us to see our products on the shelves in a leading Japanese retailer.

“Our business is growing strongly because of this strategic focus on building sales in global markets and is also boosting other local companies which work closely with us in developing, packaging and shipping our portfolio of products.

“Invest NI’s guidance and expert services have been immensely important particularly in terms of assistance to grow sales with retailers in the UK, Ireland and beyond. We’ve taken part in several Invest NI marketing initiatives including trade exhibitions abroad. We’ve also benefited from contacts made with major retailers at meet the buyer events organised by Invest NI in Belfast.” he added.

Grace’s biscuits are now sold in the US, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr McArdle said: “Securing a foothold in one of the world’s most competitive markets is a remarkable achievement for this small marketing-led business. It has moved quickly to exploit a growing demand, particularly in Asia, for premium food from suppliers in the UK and Europe.

“Japan has close business links with the UK and Ireland and has a series of retail outlets dedicated to British products which consumers there see as being high quality and deliciously different. We are working with local companies on activities designed to help them access and exploit developing opportunities in these increasingly important consumer markets.”

Grace’s Traditional Irish Biscuits was established in 2004 by Mr Bullock, who has extensive experience in international markets, to create a global food brand based in Northern Ireland.