North East Exporters Awards: Who will be crowned Exporter of the Year?

The cream of the region's exporting businesses will gather at a glittering award ceremony tomorrow to see one of their number crowned as Exporter of the Year

The 2013 North East Exporters Awards
The 2013 North East Exporters Awards

The cream of the region’s exporting businesses will gather at a glittering award ceremony tomorrow to see one of their number crowned as Exporter of the Year.

The Journal’s North East Exporters Awards 2014 is being held in conjunction with our sister paper the Gazette in Middlesbrough, and mainline sponsors the North East Chamber of Commerce, UKTI and HSBC.

Key speaker at Ramside Hall Hotel, County Durham, is Trade Minister Lord Livingston, who will hear how the region is contributing to the Government’s Plan for Growth targets to more than double the value of exports to £1tn by 2020.

He said: “I know many North East companies have already found that exporting is great and are reaping the rewards of overseas sales, with £11.58bn exported from the region in the last 12 months.

“I am looking forward to meeting this year’s award winners and I hope their success will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”


SME EXPORTER OF THE YEAR - Sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher

A-Belco Ltd, Ashington

Specialising in explosion proof electrical equipment, A-Belco Ltd has made significant inroads into the oil and gas industry. The Ashington-based company developed the world’s first Hazardous area, Zone 1 Ex e LED floodlight in 2010, which has become virtually an industry standard. In 2010, its floodlight was specified on a major offshore LNG Plant in Australia. Through its distributor network, it has broken into the Scandinavian, UAE, Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean markets. Export sales have increased by 40% from 2011 to 2012 and again by 40% in 2013. Export sales now account for 56% of turnover, against 21% in 2011.

Fentimans Ltd, Hexham

Innovative new product development and multi-lingual labelling and packaging, has enabled Fentimans to capture a global market. The soft drinks firm, based in Hexham, experienced an 85% increase in export sales from 2012-2013, exceeding its most optimistic forecasts. A target has been set to reach annual export sales of £6m by 2017, selling into a minimum of 50 countries, established with a solid foundation in every continent. This will make export the largest individual business sector for Fentimans. These sales will be generated by new developments such as the premium mixers and alcoholic ginger beers, as well as their traditional adult soft drinks.

MCPS Ltd, South Shields

MCPS Ltd specialise in the manufacture of sacrificial anodes and supply of high pressure pipe and fittings for the offshore, marine and oil and gas industries. With its strong position in the current European markets, the South Shields-based business is developing new global markets including the Middle East, Far East and South America. MCPS successfully gained the opportunity to tender for the South Stream gas pipeline in the Black Sea, and is currently bidding for a large Brazilian pipe lay contract for Petrobras. It was recently awarded the largest contract in company history for Statoil Norway. The company has also developed new distribution channels within Dubai, Denmark, Netherlands and Germany, with repeat work potentially in excess of over £2m per year.

NEW EXPORTER AWARD - Sponsored by Fentimans

CorDEX Instruments Limited, Middlesbrough

CorDEX Instruments Ltd develops and manufactures intrinsically safe and explosion proof inspection and imaging devices including digital cameras, ultrasonic testers, IR Windows and Laser Meters. The latest product developed is the world’s first and only intrinsically safe thermal imaging camera. CorDEX products play key roles in a wide range of industrial, commercial and Government activities across the globe. Its export strategy is to sell through a network of authorised distributors. CorDEX is focused on investigating how it can further expand sales into its successful European and North American markets whilst also investigating how it can penetrate new markets such as the Middle East and South America.


Gradon Architecture has tapped into emerging overseas markets, securing a number of projects in Mongolia. The Ryton-based architect, which aims to “deliver high-quality design with care and efficiency” believes it’s the first UK architecture practice to establish itself in the country. The practice is currently supporting the Mongolian Government on planning solutions of new residential developments for people living in Ulaanbaatar’s deprived Ger communities. This includes developing widespread master-planning, designing a blueprint for replacing Soviet-era homes across the city, as well as helping its partners to implement building regulation standards and BIM technologies. It also aims to reduce chronic pollution in the city by designing affordable, eco-friendly homes.

HTL, Blyth

HTL supplies bolting, flange working and bespoke hydraulic requirements to a global market. The business, based in Blyth, has evolved from a UK-based company mainly supplying a UK customer base, to a global provider of controlled bolting equipment. HTL Worldwide now has business partners in Iraq, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Brunei. HTL also have a wide spanning and ever-evolving global distributor network creating a HTL presence in Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, Kuwait, Slovakia, Greece, Qatar and the Caribbean territory. In 2013, HTL invested in key personnel to build a network of international agents and distributors to market the companies own products in developing export markets. Sales are now increasing internationally with sizeable orders received most recently from Saudi Arabia amongst others.

EXPORT TEAM OF THE YEAR - Sponsored by the North East Chamber of Commerce

MCPS Ltd, South Shields

MCPS Ltd specialise in the manufacture of sacrificial anodes, and supply of high pressure pipe and fittings for the offshore, marine and oil and gas industries. The sales team at MCPS target sales opportunities within international oil and gas companies, ports, harbour, and renewable energy companies or contractors who are either tendering or gaining or awarding contracts in various parts of the world. Port and harbour development enquiries in 2013 increased from £2m to £16m, while offshore oil and gas enquiry value increased by 28%. With its strong position in the current European markets, the South Shields-based business is developing new global markets including the Middle East, Far East and South America. The company has developed new distribution channels within Dubai, Denmark, Netherlands and Germany, with repeat work potentially in excess of over £2m per year.

MediTek Ltd, Newton Aycliffe

MediTek Ltd is an award-winning manufacturer of straight stairlifts. Since June 2013, this firm based in Newton Aycliffe has been able to secure partners in over 20 new markets including Belgium, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Iran, Mauritius, and New Zealand. MediTek’s export success is due to a variety of factors including the understanding of each country’s culture and mentality. Also building trust and strong relationships with its distributors. Despite harsh economic conditions, from 2012 to 2014, MediTek saw a 60% increase in sales across the company. The company almost doubled export sales, from 25% to 40%, and introduced its products to 15 new markets across the world in less than a year.

SOLO Thermal Imaging Ltd, Darlington

SOLO Thermal Imaging Ltd designs and manufactures the smallest, lightest thermal imaging cameras in the world. The family business, based in Darlington, has driven export activity in recent years, with the cruise ship sector one of its biggest markets. It has also designed a totally integrated helmet with thermal camera, breathing apparatus and communications to assist in extreme fire fighting conditions. Clients include Costa Cruises, P&O cruises and Regent and Oceania cruise ships. Last year the business secured a five-year deal in Russia, and also has representation in Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Bulgaria and South Africa.


Glanbia Performance Nutrition

Glanbia Performance Nutrition of Middlesbrough manufactures functional food bars for the sports nutrition, weight management and healthy eating markets. Its export sales grew substantially last year, up £7.5m to £9m. To give it the edge in a crowded marketplace, Glanbia invested more than £1m in R&D facilities in Teesside in 2012, enabling it to offer smaller production runs, shorter lead times and a wider product offer. Its products are now used in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy and it also exports contract manufactured products to Russia. Glanbia is the UK’s premium brand supplier. In 2012, export sales accounted for under 4% of the total turnover which leapt to more than 20% in 2013, with turnover increasing from £49m to £69m.

Oil Consultants Ltd

Oil Consultants Ltd of Washington is a specialist recruitment agency for the oil and gas industry, supplying teams and individuals from more than 90 nationalities to clients on a global basis. Total export sales rose from £14.5m in 2012 to just over £22m in 2013. Growth strategies over the past two years have seen Oil Consultants Ltd significantly increase turnover and profit, and create 40-plus jobs in the UK, as well as a number of international positions.  It now supplies a wider range of disciplines to clients having developed the market in areas such as scientists, maintenance personnel and management and support positions which has led to an increase in registered consultants from 12,000 to 25,000.  


Wallsend-based SMD specialises in remotely-operated equipment for use in hazardous environments worldwide. It has seen a 280% growth in export sales since 2009, with new markets opening up in Brazil, China, India, Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the United States. It now exports to 33 countries. The sales, marketing and commercial export support functions have been important in securing export sales and there has been an increase in staff numbers from five to 12 in these areas since 2010. SMD recently secured a £2.7m export-financing package underwritten by the Government’s Export Finance programme, to support a sale in Cyprus. SMD has already identified around £25m in projects that may benefit from access to export financing.

SUPPORTING EXPORT AWARD - Sponsored by Evolution Business and Tax Advisors LLP

Evolution Forwarding

Dangerous goods are classified as any product that causes risk to person, property or the environment, ranging from chemicals to nail varnish. Evolution Forwarding of Middlesbrough is expert in handling such items, resulting in total export sales rising from £385,000 in 2012 to £738,000 in 2013. Profile-raising has been key to the success of the operation, with electronic marketing a key element, led by a very successful advertising campaign on Google Ads. Despite launching without a single client in the middle of recession, Evolution achieved a turnover of £182,000 in its first year of trading and export work now represents 90% of turnover. Client base has increased from 20 to 70 regular export accounts. On behalf of clients, Evolution has exported to 19 of the 20 high-growth markets listed on the Exporters’ Awards website.

OSE European Ltd

OSE European Ltd of Newcastle offers logistics intelligence services and is focused on developing relationships with existing customers. This strategy has involved everyone at OSE understanding and developing relationships with the customer in order to identify specific needs and provide an expert logistics solution. As a result, export sales have risen by 31%. Opportunities have evolved for further exports to high-growth markets in Asia including Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the UAE. In 2011, Asian markets accounted for 0% of export sales. In 2013, this figure increased to 5%. Relationships have particularly grown with a number of local organisations in the North East, working in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

TF Shipping Ltd

TF Shipping Ltd of Boldon, South Tyneside, is a UK freight forwarder offering a variety of services for cargo. A niche service is the export of cars, plant and trucks to the African continent.  In 2013 it signed up with the UKTI for passport to export to assist it to secure an agency agreement in Ghana. It now has a deal with a local company with a strong Ghanaian presence. A key part of continuing export growth is to offer the service levels clients require while targeting new destinations. By updating the website and adding translations over the next month or so into French, Portuguese and Spanish, TF Shipping aims to further target developing economies such as Brazil, Mozambique, the DR Congo and Mexico. 

The main award on the night will be Overall Exporter of the Year, sponsored by HSBC.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer