Crider Foods is based in Stillmore, Ga.

Editor’s note: The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade Division publishes periodic Exporter Spotlight interviews showcasing how companies based in the state are tapping into new markets around the world.

In November, the state caught up with Gary Clay, vice president of global business development at Crider Foods, to talk about the Emanuel County-based company’s export journey and how investing in the infrastructure needed to scale up manufacturing has paid off now that global demand for canned chicken and other meats is booming during the pandemic.

Mr. Clay, an industry veteran, shares a variety of insights about the company’s exporting journey and the persistence require to succeed in global markets, as well as the resources available to those starting out. From fighting anemia in Peru to meeting demand out of Denmark to exploring the Chilean market, the company is active on the export scene, now selling to 20 countries.

Published originally on the department’s blog, the article has been reprinted here with permission and has been edited for length and style.

GDEcD: Please give us some background on the company.

Gary Clay is vice president of global business development at Crider Foods

Gary Clay: Crider Foods is a processor and marketer of fully cooked and shelf stable food products for customers around the globe. Our company is the market leader in canned chicken as well as a major producer of canned turkey, ham, pork and beef.

As a food supplier to the world, Crider Foods has a commitment to providing the industry’s highest level of quality products, customer service, and corporate integrity for their retail, foodservice, school and institutional customers. Crider Foods is proud of their SQF (Safe Quality Food) level 3 status, an achievement they have received for three consecutive years.

GDEcD: How long has your company been exporting?

Mr. Clay: Crider Foods started its canning business in 1977 in Stillmore, Ga. and has grown into a prosperous and community oriented business in rural South Georgia. In 2012 we added a state-of-the-art equipment to produce a broad line of canned proteins, these improvements included expanding our canning and warehousing operations, adding automated equipment, an R&D testing facility and a new Innovation Center.

This investment has allowed Crider Foods to continue our commitment to serving our customers while adhering to the highest food safety standards. As a result of this expansion, Crider was able to take advantage of the significant gain in production capacity and began expanding into international markets.

I joined the company during this time and knew that as a small business with limited resources, we needed to reach out to state resources for help, this included the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade division.

As a part of Crider Foods’ marketing plan, we included international trade shows like Anuga and SIAL and reverse trade missions to meet potential trade buyers. Crider Foods also engaged with SUSTA (Southern United States Trade Organization) and with the support of these two organizations and other trade resources, successfully began exporting products around the globe. Today Crider Foods does business in 20 countries.

Since you started exporting in 2012, what would you say is your biggest achievement?  

Mr. Clay: Anemia is a big health challenge for children in Peru, as is getting some students to attend school. The Peruvian government developed a national school feeding program, Qali Warma, to provide children with healthy, balanced meals at school while fostering the local community and parents’ involvement. With Peru being one of the top producers of tuna, the children were getting too much tuna and some were even allergic.

An alternative food source was needed, and we developed a solution by providing canned chicken. Crider Foods continues to conduct research around food products that can help tackle this health challenge. It is one of our most noteworthy achievements and our participation in this program helped us in the international business space and has made a difference in the lives of Peruvian citizens.

How has working with the GDEcD International Trade Representatives helped Crider Foods? 

The GDEcD Chile representative recently conducted market research on our behalf. This research provided an in-depth analysis of Crider Foods’ various product lines and how we can best enter and expand into the Chilean market. While we had done our own research, this additional insight has confirmed and validated our findings. The data will be useful as a roadmap for us as we create a strategy to identify and establish a master distributor in Chile.

Covid-19 has affected companies around the world. How has Covid-19 affected your business and promoting Crider Foods?

Crider Foods has seen a unique opportunity arise during this time. Our U.S. based customers have experienced an increase in their business volume as opposed to some international markets which are experiencing a downturn. In Peru, because of the virus, schools are not in session and children don’t have access to the government meal program. Products intended for Peru have stayed here in the U.S.

To address the shifting export needs, we are adapting and finding new market channels for our products. One of our new customers, a Denmark-based company that supplies ships around the world, is now ordering food products from Crider Foods in Georgia.

Our company’s global retail business has grown during Covid-19, especially in countries like Japan that has seen an increase in the demand for healthy, shelf-stable, canned goods.

The current environment has forced Crider Foods to seek alternate options for identifying new international prospects. We have traditionally exhibited at international food shows. But with global travel limited, virtual trade missions have become a viable option. In-country connections focused on a narrowly defined, qualified prospect list offer productive one-on-one virtual meetings for Crider Foods. One of the surprising benefits is that there is a noticeable reduction in the time it takes to complete an export transaction versus a traditional international trade show. The virtual platform has yielded positive results our company.

Crider Foods recognizes the importance of sustaining international visibility during the pandemic and we have altered our approach but Crider Foods continues to promote our products globally.

If you had to give advice to a new exporter, or a company considering exporting, what would you recommend to them? 

Ask yourselves the following questions: Do you and your employees understand the cultural differences? Speak the language? Know the rules and regulations for your industry? Selling internationally is first about understanding the target market and learning its needs. It is also important to identify and utilize all available resources. Prepared companies have the opportunity to enter a new market and make a positive first impression.

Exporting is a big commitment and understanding what that means is critical for a sustained and healthy export business. Companies need to perform their due diligence and create a company culture that incorporates exporting into their overall business model. Crider Foods is a successful exporter and we attribute our success in part to the support the state provides, the hardworking people and the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade services.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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