September 30, 2022

QOOT Members Explore New Opportunities in the Netherlands

A trade mission is an international visit by government representatives and businesspeople arranged by national or provincial government agencies to investigate global business opportunities.

The QOOT cluster invited 27 members to attend the Vakbeurs Foodspecialiteiten in the Netherlands. In this modern exhibition, professionals from multiple food industries attend to promote their businesses or products, increase client relationships and acquisition, and showcase their newest products. 

The Mission to Vakbeurs Foodspecialiteiten 

QOOT members got the chance to present their products and explore their possibilities for export and distribution. The participating members were Agro Cedrus, Atibaia winery, Bazco Group- Raw Bites, Bioland, Biomass SAL, Cave des Ours, Cedar’s premium Food & Beverage SAL, Colonel Beer, Crumble, Darmmess, Del Libano, Delta Group Company, Eshmoon, Figholding / Irma & Co SAL, Kanz Beit El Baraka, Karma, L’arome / Bon Choix, Lebanese Genco Olive Oil, Nature by Marc Beyrouhty, Niman – Mezzmix, Parsare SARL, Ayadina, Rechmaya distillery, Sheghel Emmeh, Soler’s, TAQA, The Good Thymes, The Three Brothers, Zakka Technologies, and Zeit Boulos by Atyab.  

“We have always lacked an organized front in Lebanon, and it was a great first-time experience to go under one collective Lebanese pavilion,” stated Fady Iskandar, Business Development Manager at Crumble. “What amazed me was the selfless team spirit where everyone supported and recommended each other’s products; a true team play! Making new relationships and friendships among Lebanese peers is priceless. Through the power of networking, we gained insights to improve our processes, even though the lessons came from different sectors.” Iskandar also explained the importance of the cluster’s financial funding for the trade mission in supporting Lebanese potential for international opportunity. Crumble was lucky to meet three extremely interested buyers and has plans to export soon. 

Ruba Fayad, the sales and marketing manager of Bon Choix, took the opportunity to observe the first-hand reaction of Europeans tasting her vegan snacks, as they are primarily used to creamy dairy items. “I was delighted to see an appreciative look on their faces; it meant we have products that satisfy the European market needs,” Ruba noted. She was also impressed by the collective patriotic spirit where all members pitched each other’s products by inviting visitors to try the Lebanese flavors. 

“We have been part of QOOT since early 2021. We enjoyed several types of support and, most of all, getting connected in one way or another to the dynamic agrifood ecosystem that believes in building non-hostile business and social connections,” said Nemer Mansour, founder of MEZZMIX. “The trade mission helped us build ties and understand the business ethics and dynamics in the EU. The Netherlands is one of the biggest food and agrifood producers, and its impact on the world is considerable. With the mission, we could understand how the market functions, what they look at, and their perception of Lebanese food. QOOT plays a fundamental role in our business development. The organization pillars are the ones we share. Hence their targets and their goals are quasi-similar to ours. Therefore, implementing their goals enables us to follow and execute ours, for example, internalization, business connections, leveling and elevating the food production standards.” 

Why Trade Missions 

A trade mission is an international visit by government representatives and businesspeople arranged by national or provincial government agencies to investigate global business opportunities. Businesspeople are frequently exposed to influential business contacts and high-ranking government officials when attending trade missions. Countries and organizations can look for buyers and suppliers by sending out a trade mission. In a best-case scenario, trade missions aim to establish international business relationships by facilitating trade opportunities and creating joint ventures or strategic alliances between global and local businesses. 

QOOT operates on the three pillars of export, competitiveness, and internationalization readiness. Thus, organizing trade missions is one of the services accessible to its members, which enhances the export and internationalization aspects of readiness. 

“This was our first trade mission to the Netherlands. We arrived at a well-planned atmosphere to empower us to establish long-term business relationships with high-caliber European buyers. The mission was well planned out, the research beforehand was right, and we received assistance and guidance at each step. The entire trade mission staff was amiable and helpful, and the coordination went smoothly,” stated Nour Bazzaz, Marketing & Sales Director of Raw Bites. “Perhaps the most important benefit was the initiative to explore the Dutch market and network with potential international partners.” 

Netherlands Visit Program 

In their visit program to the Netherlands, the group attended the CBI presentation, after which they were invited to meet the Lebanese ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Abdel Sattar Issa, at his residence. The embassy also played a significant role in facilitating the import of member samples into the Netherlands on time and helping with overall coordination. 

The trade show occurred on the first and second days in Houten, Utrecht. The QOOT booth was 36 square meters of open space, reflecting the clustering spirit. Members met one-on-one with international buyers, including BrandM, All4Trade, Cemag, Voets, Tema Fine Foods, WJT, Nedspice, Engel Foreign Food, Libons, and others. 

The third day was spent at Wageningen University and Research in coordination with Wassim Beaino, Manager of International Cooperation and Relations for the Middle East and North Africa region at WUR. It included a campus tour and a field visit to the bio-based and food research Lab, managed by Dr. Carl Safi. Members had the opportunity to pitch their business and technical problems in front of a panel of experts formed by the university. 

Ayadina, who became a member of QOOT in December 2021, aims to network with similar companies. “We did not know that the cluster included companies of all sizes; jackpot! The WhatsApp group is the best feature we use all year round, and we receive support almost at once whenever we are looking for a supplier or have a question. The trade mission was an added value because it exposed us to new markets and taught us much about our export readiness. The fact that it was a group trip gave it that aspect of cooperation where we capitalized on and supported each other. On the personal level, we met with a Dutch business, and we’re negotiating a potential order, with another one also in the queue,” explains Roy Harb, owner of  Ayadina. “The secret of QOOT, in my opinion, is the sense of belonging it gives, especially for smaller companies. I believe that if nurtured, it could become a driving force that propels the reputation of its members and gives them a competitive advantage in the market.” 

Claude Aboud from Sheghel Emeh found his wins internally within the cluster. Since his company serves snacks and ready-to-cook meals, he struck two entrepreneurial deals to co-create novel items in collaboration with Pasta Del Libano and Agrocedrus. Claude has previous experience attending trade missions, and he credits them for learning the ins and outs of international export, including research, negotiation, and choosing the products to display. 

Clustering can improve the performance of businesses in terms of productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. Small companies may be able to combine advantages with varied benefits thanks to clusters. As a result, clusters play a vital role in a region’s economic development. 

To learn more about the importance of joining a cluster, click here.

"We have always lacked an organized front in Lebanon, and it was a great first-time experience to go under one collective Lebanese pavilion." Fady Iskandar, Business Development Manager at Crumble.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mohammad Mortada

Mohammad Mortada

Mohammad is a marketer by nature and a lifelong learner by character. His extensive experience encompasses digital marketing, web development, and branding, and he has worked in the NGO and higher education sectors.