TO millions of Scots the Tunnock’s caramel wafer is the perfect snack to help bridge the gap between meals.
But the firm is hoping another of its famous products can help it break into one of the world’s most lucrative markets.
Tunnock’s had hoped the caramel wafer would be a big seller in the Far East, but it appears the Japanese are not keen on the sticky caramel texture. And any hopes of cracking the market with its teacake were foiled by the six-weeks it takes to ship the goods to Japan.
So now it is the firm’s wafer cream which is on its way to Okinawa in a giant 40ft shipping container.
Alan Burnett, the company’s export manager, said: “It is like a caramel wafer, but has a chocolate spread in the middle rather than caramel. It is a lot crispier than caramel wafers and that appeals to the Japanese taste. So that’s what in the container on the water just now,” he said.
The 22-tonne container should land in Japan next month and another shipment is already planned to leave the Uddingston base in September with a further shipment planned in December.
Mr Burnett added: “We are hoping this will be ongoing business.”
Representatives of Renho Japan Ltd have been at the Uddingston factory this week, developing plans for expansion in Japan. It is based in Okinawa, a large island off the Japanese mainland, with a population of 1.3 million.
Mr Burnett added: “We have been working with this firm for the last 40 years or so. But last year we took advantage of a couple of Scottish Government grants to enable them to take part in an exhibition in Tokyo. Now we want to go more mainstream and get into the big city markets.”
A member of the visiting party in Uddingston this week works for a major distributor in Tokyo.
Mr Burnett said: “One of the problems we have had is that the Japanese don’t like the texture of caramel, because it is too chewy. And the transit time to Japan is six or seven weeks, which is not great for teacakes.”
Tunnock’s, which has boasted annual sales of nearly £40 million, is only the latest company whose traditionally Scottish products are appealing to the Japanese market. But that can carry its own risks.
Earlier this year the authority which enforces the legislation which protects Harris Tweed, appointed an “ambassador” to Japan to crack down of forgeries threatening its multi-million pound business.
The Hebridean fabric is now hugely popular there with trade from the region bringing in around £4m every year.
But that has meant counterfeiters are also trying to cash in, flooding the market with fake goods and inferior products.
The Lewis-based Harris Tweed Authority said it had to take action on a number of occasions in recent years against the misuse of the trademark.
It even had to deal with the forgery of labels which were then being sold for use on products that had no connection to genuine Harris Tweed.
But the authority said all its experience suggested that once it was explained, the Japanese would be happy to use the brand properly and they were known to be honourable when it came to intellectual property. Meanwhile, imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but Japan’s efforts to emulate Scotland in the production of whisky has been a bit too successful for some.
In 2003, Yamazaki 12 Years single malt became the first Japanese whisky to win a gold medal at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge. Since then many awards have headed east.
Last year, Hibiki, won the World’s Best Blended Whisky prize at the World Whiskies Awards, for the fourth time.