Norfolk businesses are setting their sights on Norway in the latest drive to tap into a lucrative export market.
Around 40 people attended a breakfast briefing in Norwich yesterday to learn more about next year's Norway Export Explorer trip being organised by Trade Partners UK, the government organisation that helps companies trade overseas.
The plan is to take 15 company representatives to Oslo from January 19-22 so they can find agents and meet potential customers in the wealthy Scandinavian country.
Andrew Bacon, of Trade Partners UK, said Norway was the perfect market for first-time exporters, primarily because English was its first business language. It bought £2.2bn of UK goods and services each year and the UK was its third biggest supplier after Sweden and Germany.
"If you can sell your product or service in the UK, you have a great chance of selling it in Norway," he said. "They have a high standard of living and great purchasing power. They are very direct people, very discerning and will not be duped. They look for value for money but know they are prepared to pay a premium for quality goods."
He added: "The Norwegians like doing business with us. They respect us for our honesty and they like us."
The planned trip follows an exporting drive to Trondheim in April, although the latest initiative is not specifically focused on energy-related firms.
Mr Bacon said target sectors for UK companies looking to export included building, clothing, food and drink, healthcare, oil and gas-related products and services, transport and infrastructure, medical, shipbuild-ing and repairs.
Companies joining Export Explorer would be supported by Trade Partners UK advisers throughout, he said. There would be an initial one-to-one meeting to learn more about each firm's work and details would be sent to the British embassy in Oslo so a bespoke market report could be produced, including up to six "warm leads" potential clients researched in advance by embassy staff.
A recent survey, he said, had shown that after one Export Explorer trip, 48pc of firms had appointed an agent and 46pc had achieved orders from an average of only seven meetings.
"Norway represents a great opportunity market that welcomes first-time exporters. I recommend that companies have a go there is nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Mr Bacon.
Companies must pay a £99 fee for the pre-visit report, and there is a travel and accommodation package of around £500 covering flights and three nights in Oslo.
Among the guests at yesterday's briefing was Kevin Hawes, of Morningthorpe-based companies Ecotek and Fibretek. Ecotek designs and manufactures vehicle aerodynamics systems and Fibretek makes glass-fibre doors for local authorities and housing associations, as well as products for the oil and building industries.
"We are looking at branching out our products and looking for new avenues into Europe such as Norway, Sweden, Finland and Italy," he said.
"We need to find the best markets for our products and services and need to know exactly what the demand is over there."