Helen, director of Sweet Mandarin, and Lisa, its chief executive and head chef, cooked for Li Keqiang at a dinner in Downing Street with prime minister David Cameron last month (June 17).
After the dinner, the sisters told Food Manufacture the premier promised to promote their meals in China. “Premier Li said our food and sauces were delicious and one of the best meals he had ever had and he was proud of us selling back to China,” said the Tses.
Cameron also told them how much he enjoyed the meal and said he wanted to see the sisters succeed in the lucrative Chinese market for food and drink, which serves 1.365bn consumers.
The sisters who each received a Member of the British Empire award in the New Year’s honours list secured an export deal last November to export their gluten-free sauces to China in a deal valued at £6M over the next five years.
They saw a huge market for their Sweet chilli, Sweet and sour and Barbecue sauces in China compared with potential UK sales. The sisters estimated a customer base of between 600M and 700M people in China compared with the UK’s population of about 77M.
During the premier’s visit, trade and investment deals worth £14bn were signed between UK and Chinese firms. The UK was the most popular destination for Chinese investment, which exceeded £8bn in 2013/14 alone, creating or saving more than 6,000 UK jobs, according to the department for Business Innovation and Skills. Last year UK exports to China averaged more than £1bn a month.
An agreement to start talks on exporting British lamb and beef to China has been welcomed by Welsh farmers, while the British Pig Executive (BPEX) and the English Beef and Lamb Executive have pointed to the huge potential of boosting exports to China.
Meanwhile, the Tse sisters have been nominated for the Food Manufacturing Personality of the Year award along with five other leading industry figures. Place your vote here.