Four Tips for Developing a Food Business Abroad

Marcus Samuelsson Group
Keep an Open Mind

”It is not easy to build a business. As companies grow, entrepreneurs are always faced with new challenges. When I first started my own business, I was lucky to already have established my name at Aquavit, so people knew who I was and that gave my company credibility from the get-go. For others, it is important to consider your direction and find your niche. From then on, try to keep an open mind.

The world is always changing. Sooner or later, you may find yourself in situations you would never have imagined. In my case, I became an entrepreneur before the social media age. And now, it has become an important part of my work.

Similarly, apply the same attitude when learning about different people. Granted, the core of food business is largely the same wherever you go. Whether you open a restaurant in Sweden or in the U.S., you want to deliver great hospitality experience. To an entrepreneur, this also means familiarizing yourself with a different culture and really get to know your staff. Over the years, I found my love for traveling and curiosity about other cultures and people have helped shape my company.”

—Marcus Samuelsson, Award-Winning Chef, Restaurateur, Author, and TV Personality

Stay True To Your Goal

”Back when Fika first started in 2006, the concept of a beautiful Swedish café with handcrafted quality treats was unheard of and was something lacking on the U.S. market. As a Swedish company, holding coffee and treats dear to our hearts, we had always wanted to educate people about Swedish lifestyle through our selection of premium products.

However, there were many obstacles to overcome. Whether it was finding a space to rent, convincing landlords that this would not be ‘just another deli,’ securing permits and licenses for constructions and operation, or steering New Yorkers away from their typical grab-and-go coffee culture, the road to establishing Fika was difficult.

Thankfully, we never wavered from our mission. In spite of growing a few grey hairs along the way, I realize that New Yorkers are just as curious as they are busy. Which explains why, they were responsive and excited to give Fika—and a different coffee routine—a try.

So here are my two cents: In starting a business, you will face a million hurdles and people telling you why you should not do it. The only way to overcome them and make things happen is to stay strong, maintain focus and be determined.”

—Lars Åkerlund, Founder & CEO

Be Adaptable

”As a vegan, plant-based food and beverage company that has been operating in Sweden and Europe for almost 25 years, it is easy for us to forget how new and foreign we are to the U.S. market. But like anyone who is serious about expanding to a new place, we did not take anything for granted, or believe what works in Sweden will certainly work here. Instead, we chose to learn and adapt.

Take our product as an example. In Europe, we have been selling items that are not certified gluten-free. But once we knew that this is important in the U.S., we went ahead and switched to North American oats, paid a little extra to assure our products are gluten-free.

Another key difference we addressed is the way people shop. Since online shopping is much more prevalent in the U.S., we decided to launch an e-commerce site—something we do not have in Sweden—so customers can order directly from our website.

Clearly, our strategy reflects our understanding of American consumers. Ultimately we need to be adaptable, so we can best position ourselves for success.”

—Mike Messersmith, U.S. General Manager

Bon Bon
Engage Your Audience

”As a Swedish, family-owned candy boutique, since March 29 2018, we know there is room for us in the U.S. candy market. The quality of our products—100 different types of Swedish pick-and-mix-candy made with natural colors, no high fructose corn syrup, no trans fat, or GMOs—is something we are extremely proud of. Yet, our concern had always been: How do we get more people to know about us? This is why outreach and engagement are so important. Beyond our website’s delivery service, we will also partner with Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Caviar to reach more customers. In addition, we will offer a subscription service, allowing delivery on a monthly basis. We also invited organizations such as SACCNY plus their network to our pre-opening.

At the end of the day, hospitality is the heart and soul of our business, so we value everything we put into our brick-and-mortar store. Each stylish and modern décor accent reflects our brand, and each greeting and interaction speak about our shop. At BonBon, we want to provide that ‘neighborhood-y’ feeling to our customers, making them feel welcome and at home, so we can guide them through this fun, Swedish candy experience.”

—Selim Adira, Candy Specialist & co-owner