UK confectioner Churchill's is hoping to offset a sluggish European confectionery sector by expanding its presence in Asia.

The high-end confectioner is exhibiting at Hofex in Hong Kong this week (7-10 May), with the aim of increasing its Asian sales, export sales manager Laurence Montrognon tells just-food.

"We wish to strengthen our current position within Hong Kong and also find more partners in Asia. We have just been re-launched our products with success in Japan through Foodex and hopes to grow more within the Asiatic countries."

According to Montrognon, growing exports has become increasingly central to Churchill's strategy in response to weak growth prospects in the saturated and mature markets of Europe. "As the European economy is currently sluggish, we are putting our efforts towards the export and duty-free sectors," he says.

The group has already established a presence in Hong Kong and will be exhibiting along side its local distributor, Rainbow Asset Ltd.

Montrognon emphasises Churchill's believes the best way to move into new markets is by establishing relationships with local players with knowledge of the consumer and regulatory environment.

"We reckon it is key to develop relationships with local partners importers in Asia in order to understand the different tastes and also due to the regular changes of the regulations for the product labels for example," he tells just-food.

When entering new markets, Montrongnon says Churchill's will first identify potential partners and distrubutors, which is often achieved with the assistance of government body UK Trade and Investment. "We like to meet retailers and buyers with our distributors and build relationships with them," he explains.

The company is exhibiting its full product range and also "some mock ups of new products", Montrognon says. "We believe that Churchill's high quality products appeal to Asian consumers."

In addition to its presence at Hofex, Churchill's will be exhibiting at duty-free show TFWA in Singapore, from the 14-16 May.