A MAJOR Australian citrus dealer in Asia has questioned Horticulture Innovation Australia's “Taste Australia” campaign at the Citrus Australia Market Outlook Forum 2018 in Sydney this week.
Hort Innovation launched Taste Australia campaign in Sydney in August last year before using it as the centrepiece to its presence at the largest fruit tradeshow in Asia, Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong last September.
Hort Innovation was one of the major backers of the Outlook Forum, as part of its Citrus Fund.
The grower-owned organisation has committed more than $10.5 million into the Taste Australia campaign.
But chief executive officer of JWM Asia Holdings, Noel Shield, labelled it "confusing".
"Most of us in Asia have got no idea what this is all about," he said as a guest speaker at the Citrus Australia event.
He said it needed clarification over whether it was asking Asian consumers to sample a taste of Australia, as in the lifestyle, or whether it was about the physical taste of Australian fresh produce.
"Australia has a history of building high level marketing and we sit back and watch it fall over. This has happened time and time and time again," he said.
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But he said there was potential for producers and growers themselves to direct how the campaign went forward.
He encouraged growers to make the most of Taste Australia and engage consumers at retail level.
A more directed approach toward specific and different Asian tastes would be more beneficial, according to Mr Shield.
"The main reason we saw the growth in Japan is not free trade agreements; you have got the right product that suits the taste of those in Japan," he said.
The Taste Australia campaign is part of Hort Innovation's plan to grow exports by 2025.
Curiously, Mr Shield said an industry needed a growth plan out to 2025 as a minimum.
At the launch, Hort Innovation representatives said it would work collectively with a number of R&D corporations including Dairy Australia, Wine Australia and Meat and Livestock Australia to showcase premium food and beverages at events overseas under the "Taste Australia" banner.
AT the Citrus Australia Market Outlook Forum 2018, Mr Shield brought with him the experience of 20 years of doing business in Asia.
The company has an annual turnover of $2 billion per year, with a target to reach $10 billion by 2022
It holds 50 demonstration farms throughout Asia and farms in other nations such as Chile and New Zealand.
Mr Shield said consumer research was so important for trying to tap into the Asian markets.
He shared statistics that:
- 88 per cent of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere;
- They control 67pc of the earth's land;
- There are 3.7 billion people in Asia, which is 51pc of the world's population.
"Massive potential for Australia? Of course there is. Huge potential," Mr Shield said.
"We really don't know what we've got up there. But we also have to have a reality check.
"The reality is, when we look at the underdeveloped countries, many of these consumers are going to take years before they are in a position to be able to buy imported product. They just don't have the disposable income."
It was important to get specifics on what consumers want, according to Mr Shield.
"People ask me who is my customer and I've only give one answer: the consumer," he said.
"We must understand our markets and understand our consumers. Only then can we build a roadmap for the future.
"As an industry, we have to basically design and produce the products that suit the taste of the particular market.
"It's impossible to navigate all sectors. My advice is to work with an Asian-based partner; someone you can trust and someone who can help you develop your offer into that region."
He also fired a shot at the need for more investment from Australia.
"Wouldn't it be lovely if we had an Australian government who recognised horticulture and said we'll put a billion dollars aside per year for growth of the industry? That'd be a miracle."
In his closing comments, Mr Shield pushed delegates to adopt a "pull model" into Asia, not a push mentality.
"Don't push your product into Asia. Let the Asian markets pull the product back in for you," he said.
"When that happens, you'll find that at the beginning of the season, you've probably got your whole crop committed."