AUSTRALIAN horticulture's boldest export campaign to date, Taste Australia, is kicking goals and opening doors, according to instigator Horticulture Innovation Australia.
The strategy was launched six months ago to drive foreign interest and demand for Australian horticulture products.
Taste Australia has been rolled out in 10 countries across Asia and the Middle East, attracting significant interest from importers, retailers and Aussie growers.
Taste Australia encompasses trade show attendance, in-store promotions and seminars for buyers, media and influencers to spread the message about Australia’s quality produce.
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Hort Innovation's spruiking of the campaign comes despite criticism from Asian trade expert, chief executive officer of JWM Asia Holdings, Noel Shield, who labelled the campaign "confusing" during his address to the Citrus Australia Market Outlook Forum 2018 in Sydney last week.
Another speaker, SCS Group's India-based Keith Sunderlal, encouraged producers to embrace marketing campaigns that are grower-led.
"Australia has a good story to tell. I think you need to build with the Australia brand," Mr Sunderlal said.
"Keep it in your hands; don't let the government come in and mess it up for you.
"Tell the story the way you want to tell it, from your parts."
A taste of traction
TASTE Australia is supported by more than $40 million of research and development projects currently in the pipeline to help diversify and strengthen trade.
Hort Innovation chief executive, John Lloyd, said only six months in, Taste Australia is already getting traction.
“Taste Australia is big and ambitious, and the traction we have seen over the past six months far exceeds our expectations for the launch of this new, dynamic horticulture in-market position,” he said.
“We have been working flat-out with industry, Austrade and other partners to deliver unprecedented attendance at trade show events, in-market promotional activities, and record levels of research and development – and the results speak for themselves.”
Over the past six months, a cohort of more than 300 industry representatives and growers have attended trade shows in Dubai, Beijing and Tokyo as part of Taste Australia activities.
As a result, Aussie produce has gained exposure to almost 200,000 key buyers, importers and decision makers from retail, food service and wholesale industries from across Asia and the Middle East.
Veggies seeing benefits
AUSVEG national manager of export development, Michael Coote, said he had already seen positive outcomes from the consolidated horticulture brand.
“Successful participation in recent international trade events further strengthens the vegetable industry’s support for the unified horticultural brand," Mr Coote said.
"As a result of the unified brand, a number of vegetable growers have made enquiries about using the brand themselves, demonstrating the commercial value that growers see in Taste Australia."
Over the past six months, Taste Australia marketing campaigns were executed in 10 countries across Asia and the Middle East through more than 800 separate in-store promotions, reaching more than 100,000 consumers.
Stats looking good
WHILE sales figures are still being compiled, early feedback from retailers is positive, according to Hort Innovation.
Tesco Thailand lead produce sourcing manager, Alisa Wongstianchai, said in relation to Taste Australia, she had had extremely positive feedback from all parties including customers.
"These promotions have not only increased consumer awareness of Australian produce but have also drawn more people to our stores,” Ms Wongstianchai said.
Another successful initiative occurred recently after Australian cherries regained access to Vietnam this season, Vietnamese celebrity chefs helped launch Australian cherries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City under the Taste Australia banner.
More than 220 people attended the events, including importers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, hoteliers and local media.
Cherry Growers Australia president, Tom Eastlake, who presented at the launch events, said the result was “phenomenal”.
“The venue was absolutely filled to capacity. I couldn’t get out of the event, the engagement from the attendees was so high,” he said.
“I believe, comparative to impact, the small investment made by industry in Taste Australia will achieve a great return. I believe this has been money well spent.”
As part of broader initiatives, five chefs from Japan and Macau visited Australia over the past six months to continue building the positive perception of Australian horticulture and food.
This has generated keen interest in importing more Australian vegetables into Japan and opportunities in food service into Macau.
The collaborative Taste Australia work with the meat, dairy and wine industries continues to develop with plans for additional events in China through the year supporting the Australian food message.
“Australian horticulture has so much to offer countries overseas, and we are really just at the tip of the iceberg with Taste Australia, with so much more to come,” Mr Lloyd said.