Character and branded confectionary specialist Bon Bon Buddies is celebrating its 20th year in business by expanding into new markets.
The firm - which was founded in 1993 in the front room of MD Chris Howarth's house - has expanded its presence in the Middle East, opening up new markets in Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain in the last six months.
In 2011, Bon Bon Buddies began trading in the United Arab Emirates and has already grown its distribution presence there by more than 600 per cent over the last year. It is now hoping to expand into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Ukraine in the coming months.
The firm now employs more than 80 staff across its sites, which includes its 15,000 sq ft Blackwood headquarters, together with six dedicated sales and logistics facilities in Central Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
In 2012, it turned over a record £37 million through exports to 40 countries.
MD Howarth commented: "The Middle East is an important growth market for us. People who live there have a high disposable income, a propensity to consume confectionary and are also very familar with the brands we work with thanks to access to a myriad of satellite TV channels.
"Big brands such as Disney and Marvel are particularly popular, and consumers tend to enjoy products with unique textures and tastes. This has led to our own brand products - super sour Brainblasterz and our crunchy, space-themed Nanobytes - selling really well here.
"However, Europe is also key and we've been working hard to expand our presence further in these mature markets. We now supply products to every market within the European Union.
"Our aim is to increase the proportion of non-UK sales to two thirds of total sales, while investing in technology to develop new sales streams is also on the agenda."
75 per cent of Bon Bon Buddies' business comes from developing around 400 character-branded products every year including seven million advent calendars and ten million Easter eggs.
Howarth continued: "Bon Bon Buddies never fails to provide excitement and new challenges - for me and for everyone who works here. Our growth plans are certainly both those things, but I am confident that the next five years will see us building on our success.
"We are passionate about our employees and allow them to take on more responsibilities, develop and grow as the business grows. That approach, along with plans for some fantastic new products, means that Bon Bon Buddies has an exciting future ahead."