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Scottish baker Dean's sees success stateside

Last updated: May 2024

Learn how Aberdeenshire-based family business Dean’s of Huntly expanded its reach in the USA and beyond, with the help of Scottish Development International (SDI), the international arm of Scottish Enterprise. 

When it comes to preparing your business for the international export market, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That’s the view of Nick Watkin, Commercial Director of Aberdeenshire-based baker Dean’s of Huntly.

Now, as a direct result of the support of SDI, Dean’s is ready to go the distance – anticipating export sales into the US market of £5.6 million over the next three years.

Established in 1975, Dean’s of Huntly specialises in premium shortbread and biscuits, with a range covering own-brand, gifting products and private label. While the business enjoyed a positive relationship with SDI prior to 2022, it was re-energised in March of that year with the appointment of new Commercial Director, Nick Watkin.

Nick reached out to say Dean’s was ready to expand and felt the business could benefit greatly from SDI’s support to identify further opportunities in the USA and China. SDI’s global team was ideally placed to connect them with the right people at the right time, creating connections that could make a difference.

Nick Watkin, Commercial Director of Dean’s of Huntly

Support from SDI

Initial discussions with SDI's America team took place in May 2022. SDI helped develop a US market development strategy, set up introductions and supported Dean's with lead generation.

SDI was able to set up meetings with buyers at major retailers, conducting due diligence on potential importers and customers and preparing pitch and sales material. This work also involved working directly with third-party importers to establish a route to market, and the inclusion of Dean’s products in SDI promotions. 

By July, Dean’s had secured interest from Arizona-based supermarket chain Sprouts Farmers Market, thanks to a successful pitch facilitated by SDI’s food and drink in-market specialists working with their international trade specialist and Scottish Enterprise Account Manager in Scotland.  

Nick compared the process of international export to running a marathon, with endless paperwork, logistical challenges and potential commercial pitfalls along the way. He says that having the backing of SDI throughout the journey was extremely valuable.

Making connections in overseas markets

Dean’s recently received its first order from Sprouts, worth £200,000. It has also been accepted for USA distribution at other major retailers, including Whole Foods and Amazon, for both branded and private label. 

Not only has SDI supported the business in the US, but also around the world. Dean’s has connected with buyers in regions such as China, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe – and the future is looking bright for the baker. With the appointment of Michael Louw as Commercial Manager for Export, and multiple orders placed across different regions, Dean’s is planning for long-term growth in the market.

Dean's Shortbread Selection

An asset for export

Reflecting on the journey, Nick added:

“The amount of work and dedication both Jerry and Jeff have invested in Dean’s on top of the Sprout support is immeasurable in helping with problem solving. This also includes informal two weekly face-to-face reviews and assisting with due diligence checks on our own work.

“All these qualities, in my opinion, make the SDI team and their worldwide colleagues a wonderful asset that Scottish food and drink producers can tap into if they have the tenacity for the export marathon.” 

Chris Keenan, SDI International Trade Specialist, Food and Drink, said: 

“Working with Nick and the team at Dean’s continues to be a rewarding experience. This is a great example of how working in partnership with SDI can really accelerate a company’s export vision.”

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