June 13, 2024

Dean’s of Huntly secures finance to boost shortbread exports

Dean's of Huntly Shortbread Petticoat Tails  2100x1400

Scottish shortbread specialist Dean’s of Huntly has secured a £750k financing package from Virgin Money to help meet overseas demand for its products during seasonal spikes.

The Aberdeenshire-based family-owned business already exports to markets including Germany, the US, Australia, and China, selling both its branded shortbread and own-label products supplied to major retailers abroad. 

With high seasonal demand for its range of hand-baked shortbread items, the firm was seeking additional working capital to ramp up production in the run-up to Christmas, Mother’s Day, Chinese New Year, and other major events on the calendar.

Ministerial department UK Export Finance (UKEF) worked with Virgin Money to secure the trade finance with a guarantee offered through its General Export Facility (GEF) product. This has enabled British exporters to access over £325 million in new working capital loans since it was launched in 2020, according to UKEF, which noted it could also fast-track applications for financing facilities worth up to £10 million.

“The GEF facility has helped us manage the working capital implications of large export orders,” commented Dean’s CEO Bill Dean. “With the time it takes to ship the products, it can take three to four months to get payment from when the shortbread was made and shipped.”

Dean highlighted the GEF’s functionality of being able to withdraw what funds are needed, when they are needed, and then pay it all back when it’s not needed. “It has enabled us to pursue more customers in the US as well as expand in the Far East and Europe,” he added.

“The flexibility of what you can use the GEF for means we can use it to fund overseas sales, but also take on new people and invest in new equipment to improve processes and reduce environmental impact as well.”

Dean's of Huntly Special-edition Year of the Dragon tin

Dean’s has already used some of the GEF funding, which was first agreed last year, to complete its Christmas 2023 shipments. It also helped to produce special-edition Year of the Dragon tins for Chinese New Year celebration in early 2024, and launch a new range of shortbread hearts for this year’s Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday.

The new financing will support planned investments in new equipment at the Dean’s production site in Huntly (around 38 miles northwest of Aberdeen) and the creation of up to 20 jobs.

Dean’s has a distinctly Scottish product which is much loved around the world, and our support is helping them to enjoy continued export success,” said Tim Reid, CEO at UKEF. “The overwhelming majority of UKEF’s deals support smaller businesses like Dean’s, ensuring that entrepreneurs from all over the country can benefit from international trade.”

Craig Wilson, head of FX sales & trade finance at Virgin Money, revealed Dean’s had been a customer of theirs for many years, describing them as “an inspiring business to work with given their success and export growth”.

“We are proud of our strong relationship, but we don’t take it for granted and developed an innovative and tailored international solution to help Dean’s continue their successful trajectory,” Wilson added.

Dean's of Huntly Shortbread Fingers

Last year, Dean’s was among 13 other Scottish producers including Bells Food Group and Border Biscuits to receive finding from the Food & Drink Federation Scotland to help make its products healthier.

The global popularity of authentic Scottish shortbread appears to be in good health, with Walker’s Shortbread posting growth in exports of almost 10% in its latest financial results. 

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