Seven certified organic and fair trade brands headed up to the 9th Asia Organic and LOHAS [lifestyles of health and sustainability] Expo in Taiwan at the end of November.
The Taipei expo is one of the biggest organic trade fairs in Asia, with the 2015 event attracting 184 exhibitors from 12 countries, and 14,600 visitors. Organisers estimate more than NZ$2.5 million-worth of orders were negotiated last year.
Plus: Five tips for doing business in Taiwan
Rebecca Emslie, Business Development Manager at Christchurch health-food powder producer Claridges Organic, was one of the New Zealand delegates who went up to the Taipei expo. She says Claridges has been selling to Taiwan for the last three years.
She says health is a priority issue for Taiwanese consumers, who have a more sophisticated understanding of the links between plants, food and health than New Zealanders or people in other Western markets. This and a series of high profile food scandals means Taiwanese consumers are looking for products - including, increasingly organic products - from known, safe suppliers.
“They love anything from New Zealand, and the organic market is definitely growing.”
Rebecca sees Taiwan, an island off the coast of China, as a possible gateway into the Chinese market. The small size (you could fit seven Taiwans into New Zealand) and friendly people mean it is an easier market than China, she says.
“There are quite a few Taiwanese companies that we could work with who do business in China - in fact one of our customers is already doing that. We want to grow our footprint in Asia and as a small company Taiwan might be a good entry point for us to get our products into China.
An April 2016 market report from international research company Euromonitor notes Taiwan is a very safety-conscious market for food products, with consumers looking carefully at the ingredients and nutrition of the products they buy. This could be a positive for New Zealand certified organic producers who can prove the safety of their food products.
Organics Aotearoa New Zealand CEO Brendan Hoare, who also travelled to Taiwan in November as part of the delegation with his company Buy Pure NZ, says the Taiwanese government has moved over recent years to regulate the organic sector and the use of the term “natural” to help stop abuse and give consumers assurance.
“Organic is also a priority for the Taiwanese government, which wants Taiwan to become a quality producer of Chinese organic products for Asian and international markets.”
In June, Brendan met with several senior Taiwanese leaders, including Deputy President Chen Chien-jen, the leader of the organic sector Chen Shih-shiung, and senior government officials to discuss issues around the organic sector, and he is involved in ongoing consultation with leaders of the organic community there.
While Taiwan is a good market for the New Zealand organic sector, it is also price sensitive and highly-competitive, he says. And many of the rules about doing business in Asian markets apply just as much to Taiwan as other places.
Five tips for organic producers considering the Taiwanese market:
Seek to build relationships; do not expect to do a deal on the first trip;
Be respectful and humble at all times;
Get to know the place, customs, people and, if possible, some of the language;
It may be far smaller than China, but Taiwan is still not a single market. The north, central and southern parts of Taiwan, while similar, have their own unique characteristics, climate and market opportunities;
While building up relationships may be slow at the start - 18 months is not unusual - expect high speed action once business commences. Be prepared to return to market often and do not be shy in offering to host your Taiwanese counterparts.
- Source: Brendan Hoare, CEO OANZ
Taiwan key statistics
Size: 36,200km2 (compared to NZ at 268,000 km2)
Population: 23.5 million (NZ 4.56m)
Markets: Very aware of food safety and the links between food and health. Highly competitive, price sensitive
Rules: Check here for regulations for exporting to Taiwan.