How we’re protecting your health and safety COVID-19 Update
Aug 13, 2020 by Mark Dingley
Asia is demanding a wider variety of food and beverages from Australia than ever before, leading to exciting opportunities for forward-thinking brands.
The growth is being driven by the emergence of the middle class, an increase in disposable income and a general westernisation of diet across the greater Asian region.
We already know that wine, beef and milk are popular Australian exports, but what other food and beverage products are experiencing success in Asia.
The Asian pizza market is expected to grow by more than 20% in the next five years. Pizza Hut opened 1000 new restaurants in China last year. This is good news for mozzarella companies, such as South Australia’s largest cheesemaker, Beston Global Foods.
The cheesemaker’s exports to South East Asia, including Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan and China have surged in the past financial year. Mozzarella exports are on track to reach $18 million this financial year, up from A$2.5 million in FY2018-19.
The company has recently signed a deal with a pizza chain in China to export 1000 tonnes of mozzarella a year from its South Australian factory, marking Beston’s first major mozzarella contract in China.
One thing that sets the company apart is its ability to alter its mozzarella recipe to suit individual customers – something which is important in Asia as pizza styles vary between countries.
Beston CEO Jonathan Hicks said: "If you buy a pizza in the Philippines it will have noticeably higher fat once the cheese has cooked, and that’s how they want it whereas in China they want a certain amount of stretch in their pizza cheese and very little browning and so it goes on around the world.
The Asian taste for yoghurt is not new – back in 2015, Farmers Union 1kg yoghurt was the top-selling brand in super¬markets both in Australia and Singapore.
At the same time, Chobani hit the shelves in Malaysia with 15 product lines, noting the growing appetite for high protein yoghurt made with milk, not powder, amongst young Malaysians for high socioeconomic backgrounds.
This demand for premium yoghurts hasn't slowed. South Australia based The Yoghurt Shop, began exporting its single-serve packaged products to Brunei in 2017. A year later, it started selling its products through a distributor in Thailand.
The Yoghurt Shop can now be found on shelves in Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong, and, all things going to plan, Shanghai will be the company's first foothold in Mainland China.
That's not to say it was easy – managing director Simon Reynolds said it took three years to get CNCA import licences from China.
Bundaberg first set its sights on Asia in the early 1990s and established itself in Singapore to focus on the significant Australian expat community. While Singapore is its largest Asian market, the company has also launched successfully in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei and China.
Bundaberg CEO John McLean told AsiaLink: "China presented a real opportunity for Bundaberg with a rapidly emerging middle-class, large disposable incomes and an increasing appetite for imported food and beverage products. However, what we learnt the hard way is that you really need to take your time."
Murray River Organics (MRO) has well established export markets in Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Taiwan, with 80% of its fruit exported.
Last year, it launched two of its premium ranges in Japan as part of its strategy to grow exports. Gobble mini snack boxes are aimed at children in the Asia region, while Premium Australian Clusters are packaged in a gift box, making them ideal as a present for Asian customers.
The company is working with Alpha Foodstuffs, one of the largest organic dried vine importer and distributors in Japan.
MRO chief executive Valentina Tripp said: “Australia has the best dried vine fruit in the world and our strategy for 2019 is to extend our range of branded Dried Vine Fruit products, both natural and organic, suited to the Asian consumer.
"With concerns about food safety in Asia and the trusted Australian clean and green image we believe the strong interest we are seeing from the region will result in significant new contracts, and Foodex is an exceptional place to kick off our regional roll out."
The fast-growing middle class means Asia has developed a taste for Australia craft beer.
In China, Australian craft beers are selling for up to $10 per can at premium venues, which puts them in a different market to domestic beers which sell at corner stores for less than $1 per can.
Moon Dog Brewing is one of many Australian craft brewers that has broken into the growing Asian beer market. In 2017, the company was sending one container per month to China, Singapore and Hong Kong, and formed a partnership with TopShelf, a Guangzhou-based distributor of foreign craft beer.
The brewery even developed a beer with the China market in mind, called "Beer Can" – a light ale with cold-pressed peach and mango through it.
Take your time with Asia.
Do your research, explore and understand the market. Then, have a clear and achievable entry strategy. For example, Bundaberg segments markets and cities into zones, and only introduces limited products to avoid overwhelming consumers, while the Yoghurt Shop sends a lot of yoghurt over for free to be sampled first.
As Moon Dog Brewing general manager Josh Uljans told the AFR: "We're focused on being patient, doing this properly and building our business for the long term. There are so many really big cities in China."
What does COVID-19 mean for exports? Learn the implications in this article.
Build a successful partnership
Partnerships will make or break your Asian export strategy. Murray River Organics is working with Alpha Foodstuffs, one of the largest organic dried vine importer and distributors in Japan, while The Yoghurt Shop worked closely with one of the largest food retailers in Hong Kong and Singapore, Dairy Farm International Holdings, to begin trialling its products in an outlet in Hong Kong.
Build your own recipe for Asia
To fully capture the opportunities, you will need to invest in developing an understanding of customer preferences in this market and tailoring your product for local markets.
Bundaberg is developing an 'Asian Brew' of its famous Ginger Beer while Beston alters its mozzarella recipe to suit individual customers in different Asian regions.
There are many different funding options for companies looking to export. For example, the Export Assistance Grant Program offers grants of up to $10,000 per business and will support up to 1,000 NSW eligible businesses.
Matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the grant helps with export marketing and development activities, such as market research, participation in international tradeshows and trade missions, inbound business support, e-commerce development and marketing materials. Find out more here.