As the world continues to shrink, more U.S. companies are seeking business opportunities overseas.
Wholesalers counting themselves in this group include Certified Grocers of California, Los Angeles, and Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City. Both maintain established international businesses that are growing with the help of careful marketing and targeting.
In separate interviews with SN, representatives of each company expressed similar views on the importance of doing major preparation before targeting a foreign country for entry.
"Our first concern is learning what the customer needs," said Alex Lockner, general manager of Certified's international division. "In each case we make sure we understand the cultural differences from one area to another."
According to Wayne Epperson, president of Fleming International Ltd., Miami, an exporter has to become familiar with the target country's language, diet, customs and habits. "Some of that information you acquire, other things you learn by trying and succeeding or failing," he said.
Lockner said Certified has seen international business increase 30% to $128 million during the last year, despite the economic upheavals in Asia, by aggressively seeking out new business, promoting its Springfield line of controlled-label products worldwide, and developing a line of baby formula for China and other countries.
While Epperson declined to disclose Fleming International's volume, he said the company is adapting a flexible strategy for each country it enters and is seeing more U.S. manufacturers use wholesalers for overseas distribution.