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WMG Accelerator Programme helps Birmingham business bring authentic Oriental and Asian food manufacturing to the UK


Top Oriental is a niche-food manufacturer based in Birmingham that produces Oriental and Asian food products for the UK and European markets. They have a large facility in Coventry containing semi-automated food production lines. Given that the majority of Oriental and Asian food products have historically been imported into the UK with little customisation to UK consumers, Top Oriental saw an opportunity to re-shore manufacturing capability in this area back to the UK and make market-leading products designed with customer requirements in mind.


WMG has a longstanding relationship with Top Oriental. Previous to joining WMG Accelerator, WMG Professors in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Prof. Jay Bal and Prof. Xiao Ma advised the transformation of the business from a ‘manufacturer to wholesale’ model to ‘direct to customer’ model. Top Oriental were keen to improve their production capability and strengthen the commercial side of the business.

Finding out how the WMG Accelerator team could help tackle these challenges, Top Oriental wanted to grow their revenue and permanently move to a ‘direct to customer’ (D2C) business model in order to achieve their objectives.

As part of the preparation for entering the Accelerator, the team diagnosed a number of issues in Top Oriental’s production and commercial operations. In particular, there was reduced visibility across the stock management process and some production processes were avoidably manual. On the commercial side, there was no room for new product development, piloting was limited and there was limited resource to develop new sales channels and market research.

Top Oriental needed resource fast, and the knowledge and best practice to progress. To provide the best solutions, Top Oriental joined the WMG Accelerator Programme to help them overcome their challenges.Picture shows food manufacturing plant


Working in collaboration with WMG, Top Oriental were able to:

§ Identify gaps in between product development and customer taste profiles using quantitative social listening and qualitative customer research.

§ Gain the skills and knowledge of “lean start-up” methods in order to accelerate their product development cycles, so they could go from gathering market intelligence to real product testing and new product launches in shorter time frame.

§ Created new products based off identified market requirements, most notably a tofu-based snack given the growing demand for alternatives to poultry and red meat in the UK market.

§ Mapped their existing large production facility and created the first production “digital twin” to identify and diagnose bottlenecks and wastage points, in preparation for the rapid responsive reconfiguration of facilities to cater new product development.

§ Assessed a range of lightweight enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for manufacturing SMEs, and recommended a “best fit” solution to cater a lean start-up model of the rapid responsive reconfiguration of facilities. ERP software systems help organisations manage critical business operations, aligning and creating visibility across all key functions of the operation, including procurement, project management, risk management, compliance and supply-chain.


As a result of this collaboration, Top Oriental has successfully adopted a “lean start-up” model for its production from market validation to manufacturing and has managed to iterate on its production line and corresponding manufacturing reconfiguration on a quarterly basis. This core enabling ability has led to:

§ Launch of three new product groups, now widely distributed across the UK

§ Increased sales by 30%

§ Re-shoring niche food production back to the UK, given that many of its products were previously imported from the EU.

§ An increased order from the EU, though Brexit still hinders the actual export process. Top Oriental has an estimated £50k per month export value, under the assumption of a smooth export process to EU.

§ Implementation of the ERP system recommended and co-validated with the WMG Accelerator team

§ WMG assisted Top Oriental in securing a new Chief Operating Officer (COO) – who is now executing the newly defined strategy

§ The COO and the WMG Accelerator team are now exploring further project opportunities to ensure Top Oriental continue its innovation in both growing into niche markets, and manufacturing capability advancement.

Ming, CEO at Top Oriental, commented: “It is difficult for businesses to consider disruptive innovations when you’ve been working one way for so long. WMG Accelerator supported us in finding and materialising our new competitive advantages and rapidly responding to a new niche through dynamic reconfiguration of production ability.”

Xiao Ma, Project Lead at WMG, added, “WMG Accelerator team is trying to bring industry transformation to life. We help innovative businesses, such as Top Oriental, to adopt proven methodologies to challenge the current status quo in its industry. It is exciting to see a disruptor has pivoted from “playing” the existing game in its industry, to instead becoming a “game master” by creating new innovations and routes to market for its industry sector.”

For more information about joining the WMG Accelerator Programme, please email us on

Thu 10 Mar 2022, 10:50 | Tags: Manufacturing SME SME-Growth Success Story