A Shropshire food manufacturer is celebrating its first major export deal to Japan – just months after visiting the country on an international trade mission.

Ludlow Nut Co Japanese visit

(l-r): Masahiko Sugiyama, president of Minato Shokai; Helen Graham, of the Ludlow Nut Co; Shoji Watanabe, general manager of Minato Shokai

Helen Graham, co-owner of the Ludlow Nut Company, has secured an order for 2,400 units of its luxury fruit, nut & seed muesli from Minato Shokai Co Ltd.

To mark the occasion, Mr Sugiyama, the company’s president, visited the Ludlow factory this week (30 January, 2017).

The export win comes after Helen Graham participated in a market visit to Japan in March last year. Organised by the Department for International Trade (DIT) West Midlands, the mission enabled her and others to meet potential buyers and to network with Japanese companies looking for British food and drink products.

Since the first meeting with Minato Shokai Co Ltd, Helen, who has worked with international trade advisers in Shropshire for the last three years, has hosted a number of visits from the company as they negotiated the trade deal.

Helen said: “Before we went on the visit, we had no knowledge of the Japanese market, let alone any contacts. But while we were there, DIT set up appointments for us, one of which was with Minato Shokai. We also received valuable cultural information and had excellent help on the ground that has helped us to secure this contract. We are delighted to add Japan to our portfolio of export markets and is excellent news for the business as we aim to continue growing.”


Gerald Whitworth, international trade adviser for DIT Shropshire, said after The Ludlow Nut Company completed one of DIT’s export training programmes last year, it saw its business grow to about £4,000 of exports every month.

He said: “Helen and her team are excellent examples of what can be achieved when you do the right research and make an effort to understand your target market. There is demand for premium products in Japan and The Ludlow Nut Company’s success demonstrates that even a small company in rural Shropshire can make its mark on the global business stage.”

The eight-strong company, which is co-owned by Helen’s husband Bob Graham, already exports to Hong Kong, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Spain, and is now building a new larger home at Foldgate Lane, Ludlow, which will give it 8,000 sq ft of space. It is also hoping to take on additional staff once they move into their new premises and is targeting new markets over the next 12-18 months.

Market visits

Market visits are just one aspect of a whole package of support that DIT offers businesses in the Midlands. Any company interested in breaking into overseas markets, and taking advantage of the global appetite for UK goods and services, should visit the new online trade hub, great.gov.uk, part of the Exporting is GREAT initiative.

great.gov.uk is a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors. Whether businesses are new, occasional or frequent exporters, they will be able to take advantage of the new suite of tools and exclusive deals on fees or commissions with some of world’s leading online marketplaces.

To find out about future market visits and other events organised by DIT West Midlands contact the DIT team on 0345 222 0159.