AN award-winning Somerset cider company is breaking into the Chinese market with the help of social media.

Lilley’s bottles of cider are now selling in China through the 'Great British Food Store' on the country’s largest social media platform, WeChat.

The Great British Food Store has just been set up by Business West, one of the UK’s largest Chambers of Commerce, and is already selling 20 UK food and drink brands on WeChat, which has a user base of 1.2 billion.

Chris Lilley, co-founder of the family-run business in Frome, said: “It is a market we have been actively looking at for some years, with no avail.

“So, with the help of the WeChat campaign, we are excited to see how we can break into the Chinese market, and hope it helps us bring our passion of cider and perries to the Chinese market.”

James Monk, commercial director of Business West, commented: “Lots of companies like Lilley’s Cider have recognised that China is a great sales opportunity for them.

“The rapidly expanding middle classes there are ripe as an audience for quality UK food and drink products.”

The cider has been shipped to China and re-labelled in Chinese by Elanders UK of North Tyneside, an international logistics group with 11 operations in China.

The bottles are then shipped to Elanders bonded warehouse in Shanghai.

This enables Chinese customers to browse the WeChat store online and have orders sent to their homes within 24 hours.

Elanders managing director Kevin Rogers said: “This cross-border e-commerce offers the simplest model for UK brands to sell to Chinese consumers and expand their export footprint.

“As the Chinese travel, they get a taste and palate for foreign goods, and they have a really good affinity with the UK.

“They see British products as having heritage and high quality.

“This initiative by Business West is right on the money because e-commerce in China is just insane.

"They buy everything online and WeChat is a very powerful tool.”

James Monk added: “Getting into China is not the easiest of markets.

“We have taken apart the entire supply and transit chain to find a solution, to make it viable for these smaller companies like Lilley’s Cider to enter trading with China.”