"The UK offers a wealth of experiences to embrace and sights to explore" - in conversation with Maxime Margain, Area Manager UK & Ireland, St-Michel Biscuits


For this new Member Portrait, we interviewed Maxime Margain, Area Manager UK & Ireland, at St-Michel Biscuits. With extensive experience in the company, Maxime shares insights into his decision to settle in the UK, the challenges faced, and the opportunities encountered in the British market.

Please tell us more about your professional experience. Why did you choose to settle in the UK as a French professional?

I have worked at St Michel Biscuits for the past 13 years, a French family-owned company, in various sales positions in France. I then had the opportunity to relocate to London to expand our business in the UK and Ireland. This move provided me with a valuable chance to live abroad, experience a new culture, and develop my skills. The presence of a substantial French community in the UK, especially in London, made settling in upon arrival much smoother. The UK market is one of the largest in Europe for French cakes and biscuits, with large retailers and multiple distribution channels. This presents numerous opportunities for French brands to expand and thrive.

What were your challenges when you came to the UK and how did you face them?

One of the primary challenges was grasping the working methods of British buyers. Face-to-face meetings used to be more common, but since Covid, online meetings have become the new standard in the UK market. Consequently, it's more difficult to encourage people to try and sample your products, making navigating the online-only process challenging. Another hurdle is interpreting the true meaning behind feedback or responses and being able to read between the lines. British individuals are typically polite, well-educated, and positive, so they often provide positive feedback and respond courteously even if it falls short of meeting their expectations. Understanding the underlying meaning is crucial for adjusting your approach appropriately.

The key to overcoming this language difference is to build genuine relationships within both your professional and personal networks to fully grasp the nuances of discussions.

What’s on the horizon for next year? For your company and business in general?

St Michel Biscuits will continue to innovate and bring French expertise to the UK market by utilising the finest ingredients and offering high-quality products. British consumers have a strong affinity for continental products, particularly French traditions, indicating a promising future for our brands and products in the UK. Currently, we sell our two brands, St Michel and Bonne Maman, across various categories and are expanding our operations with a food service range alongside our retail offer. While our DNA remains in retail, we are evolving into a comprehensive food solutions provider for all customer and consumer segments. Given the British penchant for snacking throughout the day, the UK market presents significant growth opportunities for St Michel Biscuits in the years ahead.

What advice would you give to a French entrepreneur who wants to settle in the UK?

I believe one of the most valuable pieces of advice is to thoroughly enjoy the experience of living in the UK and embrace the British way of life. While the French community is important for settling into a new country, and it's comforting to speak French and connect with one's roots, British people are incredibly welcoming. The UK offers a wealth of experiences to embrace and sights to explore, so it's important to fully immerse yourself in this adventure.

What do you hope to get from your French Chamber membership this year?

I believe the French Chamber provides an excellent opportunity to establish and cultivate a professional network, which is essential for gaining a deeper understanding of the UK market. Engaging with peers, listening, and exchanging ideas consistently brings new insights that can enhance your business performance.

French food company specialised in biscuits & cakes.

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