Enhancing the export capability of Australian food businesses

As the Food and Agribusiness Industry Growth Centre, Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) is working with industry to grow Australia’s share of the food and beverage pie in the global marketplace. This requires boosting the competitiveness and productivity of the sector as a whole. FIAL supports industry in achieving this aim by sharing knowledge, improving capabilities, increasing opportunities for collaboration and commercialisation, and facilitating connections with new markets.

“Since travel restrictions came into play, FIAL quickly pivoted to offer its Meet the Buyer initiative in a virtual format. This has seen many businesses develop new connections with buyers in China, Singapore and Thailand,” said FIAL’s general manager commercial, Rod Arenas. “I don’t think it will be business as usual for international trade, but with disruption comes opportunities.”

FIAL will continue to offer its virtual Meet the Buyer events in markets all around the world, allowing Australian businesses to create those face-to-face connections that are critical to capitalising on export opportunities.

Arenas points out that Australian producers also stand to benefit from Australia’s reputation for being a source for high-quality, safe, and traceable products.

“Since COVID-19, we have seen a huge increase in the number of international buyers registering on the Australian Food Catalogue. Demand for Australian products has not stopped,” he said.

The only platform of its kind to be endorsed by Austrade and various state agencies, the Australian Food Catalogue allows suppliers to showcase their range to hundreds of registered buyers that are specifically looking to source Australian products.

“We are conscious that businesses need to keep their head above water,” he said. “How do they do that. They need to sell product, and find new customers. That doesn’t stop just because travel does.

“Industry needed quick solutions that were able to deliver tangible outcomes. FIAL was able to quickly adapt its initiatives and we are excited to continue to explore the digital opportunity.”

With announcements beginning to be made regarding confirmed tradeshow dates in 2021, many businesses may be returning their attention to this method of securing sales.
FIAL makes the tradeshow experience a low-risk exercise for Australian businesses.

“Businesses that exhibit with us can focus on maximising the opportunity as FIAL takes care of everything – from the stand build, right through to stock freight.”

Exhibiting with FIAL is cost-effective, and with 80 per cent of industry being SMEs, this is critical, according to Arenas.

“These businesses usually don’t get the chance to attend international exhibitions due to cost constraints. We help bridge the gap so they can tap into these export opportunities,” said Arenas.

Arenas emphasises that to stand the best chance of succeeding in a competitive global marketplace, businesses must be export-ready. They must understand the market they are looking to enter and they must have a clear strategy.

To ensure attending businesses have the greatest chance of success, FIAL undertakes a thorough review of the business to identify abilities and readiness.

FIAL also runs numerous workshops to prepare businesses for export, and gain invaluable market-specific insights.

International buyers are not open to all new suppliers. According to Arenas, they are seeking businesses that can show they are reliable suppliers of consistently high-quality products, take a strategic and long-term view to their markets, are prepared to support buyers with promotional activity, and don’t have minimum quantities for initial orders, to enable new buyers to test the product before committing to larger volumes.
Buyers of food and beverages are looking for products that have both a strong marketable story behind their product, as well as unique attributes that makes their product novel compared to others.
Which categories receive the most interest depends on the wants and needs of the market within a specific country, as well as the target consumer/client, the marketplace or frame of reference, and the brand’s unique benefit, said Arenas.

As travel picks up, FIAL will also return to running its out-bound and in-bound trade missions.

An out-bound mission is where FIAL facilitates a comprehensive program for a group of Australian companies to build capability and knowledge in order to make the most of entering new potential markets overseas. It organises events that culminate in one-to-one business matching events, connections and introductions to key government contacts, insights and retail tours, forums and workshops in order to build a company’s in-market capabilities.

“We are looking to do an outbound for the UK, ASEAN and other markets for the next year,” said Arenas.

Then there are in-bound missions whereby overseas buyers come to Australia to meet potential export partners. Last year FIAL brought in seven international buyers to the Fine Food Australia event.

“We took those buyers to Victoria, New South Wales, Launceston and Brisbane. We did business-matching events in all those places,” said Arenas. “Again, it was to create and establish connections. We didn’t charge.

“We co-ordinated appointments with 180 companies. It was very successful. Some ended up purchasing stock. When these sorts of things happen, companies don’t have to go anywhere. They can stay in their home state and attend the event. Again, this is important with a huge proportion of the sector being comprised of SMEs.”

Arenas said his own gauge of how well FIAL is doing is still results-driven.

“A good month for me is based on programs and activities in collaboration with industry. How many companies have we managed to get across the line to secure – for example – an international order?” he said. “It doesn’t matter where around the globe, it’s all about how we drive the industry and provide opportunities and build capabilities for the overall sector. We want to talk to anyone who is interested in food and agribusiness and how we can facilitate some of these opportunities.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating jobs. It is also about selling more Australian products into the global marketplace.”