The Proton Group: dispensing beverage hygiene solutions overseas

1 September 2016


Initial exporting success for drinks dispensing systems hygiene company, The Proton Group, came in 2002 when it started to sell its products in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) through a distributor.

To build on this, The Proton Group, which supplies a wide range of specialised hygiene items for cleaning and disinfecting all types of draught dispensing equipment, including kegs, casks and those for wines and soft drinks, approached the US market four years later.

“As we were trading satisfactorily in the UK with global brewing giants, such as AB InBev and Molson Coors, we asked about supplying them in the US”, says managing director, Murray Angus (pictured right).

The brewing giants recommended The Proton Group to start by speaking with a dispensing equipment business in Illinois, Banner Beer Company. Murray Angus adds: ”We approached them and, as they were interested, visited in 2006. It was agreed that we would supply our products and they would sell them through 11 sub-distributors.”

But first, as The Proton Group’s products were new to the US, they had to be tested and verified there. After this, Banner Beer Company agreed to promote them on its website to generate customer interest.

Murray Angus, who became managing director in 2002, adds: “We had to provide quite a lot of long-distance technical support. We also attended a beer academy near Chicago to advise on how our products are used and gave presentations to various breweries and bar groups on a similar theme.”

Founded in 1971, The Proton Group, Normanton, West Yorks, which has 26 staff and a turnover of around £4m, also supplies products for glass washing and care, dish and tableware cleaning products, high quality janitorial products and some laundry and fabric care items.

A further breakthrough into the US happened in 2015 when the business was approached to supply two glass cleaning products and one beer line cleaner to food and beverage equipment cleaning company, National Chemicals Inc, Winona, for distribution to its own customers.

The three products were Quash, a patented product which removes lipstick and grease from glasses; Renovate, which restores glassware to its original bright condition and allows draft beer to nucleate, and Prosan Ultra, a beer line cleaner.

Murray Angus, a We are International export ambassador says: “We were very pleased about being approached by National Chemicals after they recognised the special nature of our products. It gave us another important local foothold in the large US market purely on our reputation.

“We would never turn down opportunities in the US but we found it a slow burn. It can be quite a trek logistically to get products out there and distribute within such a massive market with different states. Also, communication from the UK with a minimum six hours’ time difference can be difficult.”

After the initial breakthrough in the US, The Proton Group turned its attention to Europe and the big beer drinking nations of Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Malta.

“Winning business in the US gave us confidence that we could sell overseas, even at very long distances” Murray Angus says. ”As we had contacts in Heineken and Carlsberg, which are part of AV InBev, we focused on Europe largely because it is closer and easier to service. Desk research on prices also revealed that our products sold for significantly more than in the UK, so the potential to boost our profitability was a big incentive.

“So far Denmark, Poland and ROI have been our most successful, with our beer line cleaning products and glass wash products sold to the hospitality sectors.   Current exports total 13 per cent but our aim is to continue our growth and achieve 25 per cent in export sales in the next three-to-five years.“

Having achieved this with a small but specialist business, what are Murray’s tips to companies considering breaking into overseas markets?

“If you are going to take exporting seriously, regard it as an integral part of your business plan and not as an adjunct.

“Start by doing some worthwhile desk research which can be extremely useful as it was for us. However, research can take you only so far, so also make contact with prospective customers, distributors or intermediaries.

“Do not worry about supposed cultural difficulties which, in Europe,  tend to be talked up. With the EU, UK companies have the benefit of speaking English, often very well.

“Be persistent and patient. It can sometimes take up to 18 months to get things moving. Some companies miss out on long-term success by losing faith when they do not see quantifiable short-term results

“British embassies are usually very forthcoming. They can provide meeting facilities and meeting prospective customers at a British Embassy usually goes down very well in giving them security and confidence in your business.”


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