Tapping Overseas Markets With Support From Santander

How a Santander trade mission enabled a Yorkshire brewery to win international contracts

In Brief

  • Company turnover: Expected to be £1 million in 2013  
  • Sector: Brewing
  • Yorkshire-based Ilkley Brewery has grown steadily since launching in 2009, and was looking to expand overseas.
  • A Santander Relationship Director arranged for company founder Chris Ives to take part in a trade mission to the USA and Brazil as part of the bank’s Breakthrough programme.
  • The trade missions provided Chris with contacts and market research, as well as meetings with key facilitators.
  • Since taking part in the Breakthrough trade missions, Chris’s company has made exceptional progress exporting to the USA. He secured an order for 15,000 bottles from several states, an order that has since quadrupled. This success has now attracted orders from Europe and the Far East and the company are now considering plans to increase production with support from Santander.

Since launching in 2009, Yorkshire’s Ilkley Brewery has maintained a steady focus on growth. The company has ramped up production from 2,000 to 7,000 bottles a week, a phenomenal increase that reflects both local and national demand for the company’s award-winning products. Now, with help from Santander’s Breakthrough programme, the company is extending its reach overseas.

“I first met the company at a networking event,” says Santander Relationship Director Hardeep Thandi. “I could see that they had a strong brand and were beginning to attract international interest.” Hardeep arranged for the brewery’s founder and Managing Director Chris Ives to take part in trade missions to São Paulo and New York as part of the Breakthrough programme.

Global ambition

Ilkley Brewery had already established itself as a major brand in the UK and was using social media to raise awareness of their products overseas. Their next stage of development was export, which was where the Breakthrough trade missions proved invaluable. “Santander provided a structured approach to visiting both the US and Brazil,” says Chris. “They provided us with market research, set up important meetings and put us in contact with key facilitators such as lawyers and logistics experts.”

Santander’s international presence was a great advantage. As Brazil’s number-three bank, Santander could provide extensive commercial contacts and market knowledge, all of which can be put to the service of UK companies seeking to export.

Visiting a potential overseas market provides essential insights and intelligence for anyone hoping to export, as Chris explains. “Import duties are very high in Brazil, so European goods are very expensive,” he says. “However, I found out that wealthy Brazilians will pay maybe $15 for premium beers. We could see there was a market. And in the US we learned that brewers don’t supply pubs direct; you have to find an import partner.”

Pushing into Europe

Since taking part in the Santander trade missions, Chris’s company has scored several major successes in America. Having secured a deal with a US importer during the trade mission to New York, Ilkley has exported an order for 15,000 bottles from bars and restaurants in Alabama, Georgia, New York and Washington. This initial order has since quadrupled, with orders now arriving from Sweden, Norway, Ireland and the Far East. 

The trade mission to Brazil also paid dividends. “We are continuing to discuss trade agreements with two Brazilian distributors and hope to start supplying the market in the autumn,” says Chris. “Interest in our beers in Brazil has also sparked interest from other South American countries.” Looking to keep up with such a rapid increase in demand, Ilkley are currently rebranding their bottles and expanding their range of beverages. The company are also considering plans to increase production capacity with further help from Santander.

What is Breakthrough?

Breakthrough is a programme of funding, business support, events and consultancy to help high-performing small and medium-sized enterprises leap to the next level of sustainable growth. To find out more, or to register your interest, visit the Breakthrough website.


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Where Next?

Relationship Director Comments


We were very impressed by the management team. It has taken a very proactive approach to market the brand and its beers have won several awards. The business established a strong brand presence nationally without losing the connection with Ilkley in Yorkshire.

Hardeep Thandi, Santander Relationship Director