This holiday weekend, grills across the country will be fired up, bringing family and friends together to enjoy traditional, finger-licking American barbeque and celebrate the unofficial start of summer.
Bringing America’s passion for barbeque to the rest of the world, North Carolina-based Ford’s Gourmet Foods—with support from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) market development programs—has exported millions of jars of their aptly named, award-winning Bone Suckin’ Barbeque Sauce to dozens of countries across the globe.
Ford’s is a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated small business, which has been making and selling a variety of food products out of Raleigh, N.C. since the 1940s. With the creation of an all-natural, Western North Carolina-style barbeque sauce dubbed Bone Suckin’ in 1992, high demand for the sauce caused the company’s business to boom across the United States.
While the company achieved great success domestically, their international sales were, at first, slow to grow.
In an attempt to increase worldwide exports, Ford’s sent a team to London to participate in the Specialty and Fine Food Fair in 2003. This, which was their first international trade show, yielded big results. The company quickly realized, however, that they couldn’t afford to regularly participate in these shows—and remain competitive in the global market—without support.
Soon after the show, Ford’s became a member of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA), which is funded by FAS’ Market Access Program (MAP). With this, they discovered the array of services provided by SUSTA and had the tools they needed to succeed internationally.
Thanks to SUSTA and MAP, Ford’s has been able to exhibit at more than 20 international trade shows. Ford’s has also received help labeling their products for international markets, conducting market research, easing shipping costs, advertising and much more.
Before participating in SUSTA’s programs, only 2 percent of Ford’s sales came from exports; the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada were their only international customers. Today, at least 35 percent of Ford’s sales come from exports. Since 2004, their exports to the UK alone have increased more than 300 percent and they now export to more than 50 countries including Germany, Denmark and Australia.
When Ford’s began exporting, their focus was only on Bone Suckin’ Barbeque Sauce and its affiliated products. Today, they export their whole line of foods, which includes the brands Fire Dancer Jalapeño Nuts, Wine Nuts, Earth Family and more. Their signature barbeque sauce, however, remains by far the company’s top-selling export.
In 2008, the enormous success of Ford’s in the international marketplace was touted when they were named North Carolina Exporter of the Year by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Even amid thriving international sales, Ford’s still seeks to expand both at home and abroad. The company’s sights are now set on exporting to South Africa.
To learn more about FAS market development programs and its State Regional Trade Groups partners, such as SUSTA, visit our programs page. For information on upcoming USDA-endorsed trade shows, please visit our website.