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Case study - The Swedish Bee Company

Introduction 

The Swedish Bee Company was founded in 2018 by Mr. Olofsson, who was always interested in bees. Fascinated by how the bee community works and the crucial role bees play in nature and pollination, decided to take a course in professional beekeeping.

Since the beginning, the focus of the company had been on producing honey in close harmony with nature and without any processing. Allowing nature to take its time and letting the bees do their job is the company’s philosophy, building on the idea of “slow honey”. This mixture of passion and dedication finally resulted in "The Honey of Sweden", the company's flagship product.

In order to produce a product with such high standards, the bees are located in sparsely populated parts of Sweden in a varied landscape of forests, meadows and scattered small farms. Each harvest is unique and has a different color, taste, and texture. Even bee colonies that stay in the same place year after year produce different types of honey because the weather at the time affects flowering. Sweden’s animal welfare and nature preservation regulations also contribute to ensuring the highest standards. 

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Why Japan? 

“I identify Japan as a large economy and a large market, bristling with opportunities. Additionally, there are customers attentive to niche products [...] If you can make it there, then you should be able to make it anywhere. On a personal level, I was always very interested in Japan”. 

The Swedish Bee Company had been showing interest in entering the Japanese market for a while. The first collaboration was finally established in 2020. 

EU-Japan Centre support 

In 2021, the Sweden-based company was selected as one of the participants in the Get Ready for Japan training, a scheme promoted by the EU-Japan Centre that offers EU managers the unique opportunity to experience and understand both the cultural and economic elements that define and explain Japanese business etiquette. Due to the pandemic, the training was held online. 

In addition to the training, Mr. Olofsson also benefited from another support of the Centre in the form of intelligence through the EU Business in Japan website. EUBIJ is a depository of over 400 reports and webinars, which cover various industrial sectors, regulations, and aspects of Japanese business culture. Attending EUBIJ webinars has proven to be particularly beneficial.

 Challenges and difficulties 

“I would say that the main challenges are the language barrier and the cultural differences. [...] Another main difference is the “silent communication” which we do not have here in Europe. You need to build trust with Japanese partners and forge local connections to be able to expand. The Get Ready for Japan training has been helpful in conveying these concepts”. 

The difficulty of fully understanding the Japanese language and coping with cultural differences proves to be a very common obstacle among companies wishing to enter the Japanese market. To address these challenges, the Swedish Bee Company improved the language component by collaborating with partners fluent in Japanese.  

Regarding the business entry strategy, the Swedish Bee Company placed a significant focus on the packaging of the product, recognizing the high value that Japanese consumers place on the presentation of a product. 

Future expectations 

The Swedish Bee Company envisions achieving consistent growth in the Japanese market in the future.  

The Company's goal is to position itself within the Japanese market as a high-end brand and reach a segment of consumers interested in international organic and quality products. 

Any advice for companies interested in entering the Japanese market? 

"Being patient is key. Do not rush, do not raise your voice, and always try to read the atmosphere of the room. Moreover, attention to detail is crucial, be it for the packaging or for the social media presence. Finally, establishing contacts with an agent to overcome cultural and language barriers also helps." 

Text based on an interview with Mr. Mats Olofsson, Owner and CEO, The Swedish Bee Company, https://thehoneyofsweden.com , participant to GFRJ 2021.

Company presentation video: https://thehoneyofsweden.com/about-us%ef%bd%9c-the-honey-of-sweden/    

Published on March 2024.

 

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