Philippine exporters, particularly of apparel and clothing, and consumer electronics items and components, are encouraged to penetrate the United Kingdom (UK) market and benefit from its own Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP).
Michelle Fatima Sanchez, Commercial Counselor at the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC)-London, said there are advantages like GSP preferences which are still underutilized.
“These are primarily in men’s or boy’s shirts, we are only utilizing 25 percent of that. And then for footwear, only 48 percent. For wrist watches, it’s zero. And there are several other consumer electronics items and components for which we are underutilizing our GSP so let’s … study the opportunity there,” she said.
Sanchez said the PTIC-London has also received queries for products which the country has tariff advantages because of GSP. These include coconut products, canned tuna, pili nuts, banana chips, pineapple fibre, freeze-dried vegetables, calamansi preparations, and sauces and mixes.
She added the country’s big-ticket items like tuna, bicycles, and pineapple “benefit a lot from this (GSP) because in most cases, the tariff advantage is very significant.”
To suit products with consumer preferences, Sanchez advised local exporters to ride the trends in the UK market.
“The UK is very big on online shopping and the trend is going to go up. The pandemic actually has encouraged more people to try online shopping and I think more people now realize how easy it is,” she said.
“The penetration rate of the internet in the UK is 96 percent so people are actually very much online in the UK so it’s important to maintain (an) online presence,” she added. “So it’s good to at least get your products that way and it’s not a very expensive way to market your company.”
Sanchez further said UK consumers have high purchasing power but they are “very cost conscious.”
With this, she said large supermarkets in the UK usually do a price match to compete with discounters that are now growing in popularity.
“So being very price conscious, the UK consumers use their purchasing power to sometimes make a statement or support causes that they believe in. Foremost is sustainability and the environment so frozen foods are actually becoming more popular. So beyond the convenience, frozen foods are seen to be a solution to food waste because when foods are frozen, then you can use as much as you need and unlike with fresh vegetables or fruits for instance, like if they ripen too much and you have to throw them out. So that’s not a problem with frozen food,” she added.
Sanchez said “plant-based” is also a trend and is a growing market in the UK.
“Because it is not a niche (market) anymore… Plant-based food for instance before would only cater to vegetarians. Now, the bigger market is actually flexitarian so it’s people who eat anything but sometimes they opt to eat plant-based food because either they want to help the environment or also they want to adapt more healthy choices
in their life,” she said.
Sanchez said exporters, especially of food, thus need to seize this growing market as it has gone mainstream already.
She said “free from” is another important trend in the UK.
“So it is not just gluten-free anymore, it is not just sugar-free anymore, it is free from any possible allergens that could hurt people. So even if your products are not free from allergens for instance, you have to declare very clearly in the label what allergens
it contains,” she added.
Further, Sanchez said more UK consumers look for sustainability in packaging as they help the environment.
She said there is a growing consciousness toward plastic-free packaging.
“Supermarkets are moving away from plastic as well so it is probably good to consider that when you think about packaging for your products,” she told exporters.
Sanchez likewise urged them to seize market opportunities of zero-emission vehicles.
“We need to go get into the e-vehicle supply chain for the UK and Europe because those would be the biggest markets for e-vehicles. And then we are already in the supply chain for bikes so maybe we should look at the supply chain for e-bikes in the UK as well,” she added.