Cadbury chocolate, smoke detectors and UB40 - the best things to ever come out of Birmingham, according to locals

  • Cadbury chocolate, smoke detectors and UB40 are the best things ever to come out of Birmingham, according to locals
  • Santander UK research highlights importance of international trade to West Midlands companies – 46% currently trade internationally and 89% of these say it is critical to business
  • West Midlands companies reveal what it takes to make it overseas, including top tips for international success
  • Little Witley-based OLPRO shares its experience of taking its business international

Cadbury chocolate, smoke detectors and UB40 have topped the list of the best things ever to come out of Birmingham according to local residents. 

In new research by Santander UK1, residents local to Birmingham have named the top ten things to come out of the city as: 

  1. Cadbury chocolate 
  2. Smoke detectors 
  3. UB40 
  4. The x-ray scanner 
  5. Jasper Carrott 
  6. Ozzy Osbourne 
  7. The photocopier 
  8. Benjamin Zephaniah 
  9. The bicycle bell 
  10. Roller skates 

Many of these things have put Birmingham on the global map, being well known, well used and much-loved in countries spanning the globe. Just as people from Birmingham are proud of their city’s greatest exports, Brits throughout the UK are pleased with what the nation has given the world. Santander UK’s research2 has found that 82% of Brits think some of the best things in the world have originated in Britain.

As well as being a source of pride, British exports play a significant role in the day-to-day success of UK companies. Santander UK’s research3 shows that many businesses in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region see international trade as vital. In the West Midlands, 46% of companies surveyed currently trade internationally, and 89% of these said it was critical to their business. The most-cited countries they trade in are Germany (45%), the USA (41%) and France (41%). But international success doesn’t happen by chance.

John Carroll, Head of International and Transactional Banking, Santander UK said: “A lot of research, hard work, perseverance, and adaptation go into transforming home-grown British goods and services into exports that resonate with consumers abroad and take off internationally. It also pays to have the right contacts in place - be they in-country retailers or distributors - to make sure UK-produced products and services have visibility overseas and get into the hands of buyers quickly and efficiently.”

The most common adaptations and measures West Midlands businesses have undertaken to ensure their success overseas are:

  • Adapted product or service to suit local market or comply with local regulations (31%)
  • Hired local staff (31%)
  • Worked with a local in-country partner or distributer (29%)
  • Marketed it differently (29%)
  • Increased social media presence (29%)

It isn’t all plain sailing, as local businesses have worked hard to overcome the common challenges of making changes to comply with different rules and regulations (36%), language barriers (34%) and extra costs (29%). Of the West Midlands companies that don’t currently trade overseas, the reasons behind this are their beliefs that their business is too small (39%), their product or service is unsuitable for an overseas market (19%), and shipping and transport costs are too high (17%). Despite this, 38% of these businesses aspire to take their products and services overseas in future. However, only 18% have a plan in place to make this happen. They say grants (29%), less red tape (20%), and education to understand the rules and regulations (20%) would encourage them to take their business international.

A significant proportion of West Midlands companies are positive about trading abroad, with 56% agreeing ‘the future is bright for British business operating internationally’. Contributing to this optimism are their beliefs that: there is now freedom from EU regulation (45%); the pandemic has opened more opportunities (38%); and consumers are supporting British businesses more (36%).

Santander UK’s research has also revealed West Midlands business owners’ and decision makers’ top tips for international trade success:

  • Make sure there is a market for your product or service before you start (28%)
  • Ensure your UK business is doing well first (28%)
  • Adapt your product or service so it suits the local market and complies with in-country regulations (26%)
  • Hire employees who speak the language of the country you are entering (26%)

Outdoor leisure products company OLPRO is based south-west of Birmingham and sells its tents and recreation equipment through its website direct to customers all over the world. Established a decade ago, the Little Witley-headquartered online retailer and Santander UK client has won several awards celebrating its international business success, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – International Trade 2021.

OLPRO Founder and Director Daniel Walton said: “Very early on we knew we would want to sell abroad so as not to limit our volumes. Being in a niche market that’s actually bigger in other countries nearby made it very appealing. Our first steps toward taking the business overseas involved speaking with our local Chamber of Commerce, researching potential markets and working with international marketplaces to stock and sell our products. To be successful internationally, the biggest adaptation we made was having our website translated into local languages and ensuring it shows the local currency, which means the price international customers see online is the actual price they pay, with no extra import charges. We’ve also started using international ambassadors and social media, localising as best we can. My advice to UK companies thinking about trading internationally is that it’s not difficult, is probably the easiest way to broaden your market, and there's a chance your competitors aren't doing it.”

John Carroll, Head of International and Transactional Banking, Santander UK added: “It’s clear from the research that international trade can play a crucial role in helping West Midlands businesses to emerge from the pandemic and get back to growth and with the right support and partners, these internationally trading businesses can thrive. Later this year, we will be launching a new online platform, where we will share our years of experience and knowledge in one place to help West Midlands businesses with tailored support to find their way when expanding overseas. We’re here to help these businesses with support that goes beyond banking as they navigate the challenges.”

Santander’s international team has dedicated market specialists that have access to extensive local networks and knowledge around the world, and a long track record of helping businesses implement their international growth strategies. This support ranges from working with them to identify new markets, helping them with shipping and logistics options, and organising virtual trade missions to introducing businesses to trusted local partners, potential new customers and vital networks in key destinations. For more information on the international support available, visit:


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The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

For more information about the international support Santander UK provides British businesses please visit:

For Santander UK’s top tips for UK businesses looking to expand internationally, please visit:

For more information about OLPRO please visit:

Notes to Editors
1) Research is drawn from a survey conducted by OnePoll of 100 people whose closest city is Birmingham on 14-21 January 2022.
2) Research is drawn from a survey conducted by OnePoll of 2,000 UK adults, nationally representative, on 14-20 January 2022.
3) Research is drawn from a survey conducted by OnePoll of 1,000 UK business owners and decision makers on 14-25 January 2022.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. At 31 December 2021, the bank had around 19,200 employees and serves around 14 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful presence in 10 core markets in the Europe, North America and South America regions, and is one of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. Its purpose is to help people and businesses prosper in a simple, personal and fair way. Santander is building a more responsible bank and has made a number of commitments to support this objective, including raising over €120 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2025, as well as financially empowering more than 10 million people over the same period. At the end of 2021, Banco Santander had €1.15 trillion in total funds, 153 million customers, of which 25.4 million are loyal and 47.4 million are digital, 9,900 branches and 197,000 employees.