Golden Bridge Award Winners: Where are they now? Real Good Food Europe

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In our series of revisiting past Golden Bridge winners and how far they have come since their award win, today’s story puts the spotlight on Real Good Food Europe.

Real Good Food Europe, producer of baking ingredients, won the 2013 Golden Bridge Award for ‘Best Newcomer’. It has experienced continued success across Europe ever since.

Starting its European operations almost from scratch in 2010, revenues grew from €500.000 in 2013 to €2m in 2014, and with a turnover forecast of €4.5m for 2015. Real Good Food is now cementing its overseas commitment by opening a new office in Brussels and recruiting new employees.

We took the chance to speak with Thierry Dubois, General Manager of Real Good Food Europe, about the company’s journey since winning the award.

Thierry, it’s been approximately 1.5 years since you won the Golden Bridge Award for UK best newcomer into Belgium. What has happened since then for Real Good Food Europe?

Only good news so far to be honest. We have been growing surely but steadily. At present, we are a team of 10 people compared to the 6 we were at the time of winning the award. We should be adding two more people in the coming months, as we are looking to develop in other markets such as Germany. In the other countries where we already have a presence, such as France and the Netherlands, we have continued growing.

A year ago, we went from being a service company to owning our own warehouse of 650m2 for the next three years, but things went so fast that we already had to move in June to a bigger warehouse (1200 m2) in order to cope with our development. I guess that’s a positive problem to have on our hands!

So it’s really growing fast and in many different directions, especially as we are broadening our portfolio of products and expanding our customer base. We’ve been very successful in Western Europe and we now intend on going to Eastern Europe and possibly Russia if we find the right contact.

What did the Golden Bridge process do for you in terms of reflecting on your business success?

It’s always difficult to measure the exact business impact of these sort of things. However, I definitely know it has raised the profile of our European office, which won the award, as we have been contacted even by potential customers in our UK home market.

Also, when you get busy growing your business and you are constantly striving to reach the next level, you usually don’t find the time to sit down and look back at what you have achieved. The award application process offered a great opportunity to do just that. Besides that, it was certainly a nice celebration party! (laughs)

What have been the main challenges you faced about doing business in Belgium and Europe? Any ‘top tips’ to share on how to approach the Belgian market?

Every time we enter a new market in Europe we are facing new challenges, as we constantly need to re-evaluate how to integrate. France was a very difficult market for us to cope with, but thankfully we believe in always having someone there in the field taking care of each country’s customers. If you don’t know what is happening in a country and you try and find out from a distance, it’s very difficult to supply that market.

As for Belgium, one of the main challenges is definitely the administration and bureaucratic processes. I would advise any UK company entering Belgium for the first time to delegate as much as possible to an accounting office, lawyer’s office, or any kind of service that could give you a helping hand with the administrative work. It happens in many different places, but Belgium is certainly not an easy one, that’s for sure.

What role does Belgium play in Real Good Food Europe’s continued growth?

Belgium is the ideal place to be, but not necessarily the ideal place to sell. It’s a very good place to deliver all over Europe, but the Belgian market is rather small. We’re trying to develop it since we are here and it’s very easy to participate in related events.

From a sales perspective, bigger markets, such as Spain and Italy, are our main priorities though, as we have not been as successful there lately as we want to be. I suppose our recipes are more adapted to Northern Europe, but we have developed a new formula which I hope will enable us to cover those markets as well.

What was your secret to winning the Golden Bridge award, and what tips would you give any prospective candidate?

Try to keep it simple and focus on what really matters. I also brought something typically Belgian along for the selection panel: a speculoos-flavoured sugar-base for cakes, everybody had to love that – and they did!

The Golden Bridge Awards recognise the trade and export success of UK companies doing business in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies doing business in the UK. Companies of any size and in any industry can apply. Applications close in early September, and the winners will be announced at a high-level black-tie gala dinner in London on 26 November. Winning companies receive further recognition and profiling throughout the following year through the organising chambers. For more information on the awards and how to enter as a candidate, please contact James Pearson at james.pearson@britishchamber.be.

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