Countries place value on different aspects of food products, export advisor says

Making a few changes to marketing campaigns and packaging could help a product succeed in an overseas market, according to Export Connect director Najib Lawand.

Lawand spoke to business owners at an export forum during the Fine Food Australia expo in Melbourne in mid-September.

Having worked in the food and beverage industry for 20 years, across the public and private sector, Lawand helps companies make the right decision when it comes to moving into an overseas market.

Speaking to Food and Beverage Industry News after the forum, Lawand explained the differences between Australia and overseas markets.

READ: Fine Food Australia expo in Melbourne showcases the country’s best

Common trends across Australia and other markets include a focus on health and convenience, but portion sizes need to be different in different markets, he said.

Ready-to-go and pre-prepared meals are also appealing to an increasing number of consumers across all markets, he said. “People want to have the feeling that they’ve cooked.”

But, within the precooked meals and ready-to-eat foods categories, Australian exporters may need to adjust their product’s portion and packaging sizes, said Lawand. 

“The main difference is that in Asia they go for smaller pack sizes, whereas we go for bigger pack sizes.

“They have small fridges, small pantries. Often the apartments are smaller and suburbs are more compact.

“It’s not just about what you do with the products in terms of packaging. To succeed, you need to do your homework and build your business model around it,” said Lawand.

Another big difference is how a product is sold. In Australia it is common to shop in-store, whereas in Asia e-commerce is very big.”

When looking overseas, businesses should think about e-commerce, which also helps to cut out the middleman, he said.

Asia and the Middle East are favourable regions for food and beverage exports, said Lawand. 

“Asia and the Middle East have great opportunity because there’s a demand for allnatural products which also have a quality angle and a trust element.

Healthy and free-from products are gaining in popularity around the world, and in particular in these regions.”

Australia’s clean, green environment gives companies a reputation that appeals to these markets, he said.

“They see Australians as living healthy lives.”

Many Chinese consumers and other Asian markets want to explore Western food, said Lawand.

Asian markets are especially appealing for Australian businesses because of the increasing value placed on Australia’s food standards in this region, he said.

It is also a natural extension when commercial capacity has been reached on the domestic front. For many Australian suppliers, especially larger producers, their market has reached top growth, and that’s when they start looking offshore.”

Overseas markets are virtually limitless as hundreds of millions more consumers can be reached, said Lawand. 

This is especially so in regions of high growth, such as Asia. “Urbanisation is quite rapid in the Asian market, so there are more shopping centres, apartments, office buildings, supermarkets, convenience stores and cafes,” he said.

However, it comes with its challenges.

“We recommend Singapore because it’s easy to get into, but they only have a couple of million people.

“You can go to China too, but meeting compliance and getting through CIQ (China Inspection and Quarantine) is very difficult. If you are very well connected that’s where you will have the most opportunity,” said Lawand.

To succeed, Lawand suggests considering packaging, marketing and retail distribution methods on a case-by-case basis.

People without established connections can either put in the legwork to make it happen, or employ the services of those who have already, and can help build a connection to those markets, said Lawand. 

Red meat exports have hit a high of $13.7 billion, superseding last year’s figures

In the year ending June 2018, Australian red meat, offal and livestock exports reached $13.78 billion.

This is up 13 per cent year-on-year and largely underpinned by an increase in cattle turn-off and higher smallstock prices, according to figures from Meat and Livestock Australia.

Beef export value didn’t surpass the drought years of 2014–2016, but it was the third highest financial year on record at $7.96b.

With lamb prices smashing records in recent months, lamb exports reached a record $2.27b, and mutton followed suit at $1.02b.

READ: Australia’s sheepmeat exports to China saw the largest ever start to the year

Combined sheep and beef offal exports broke records at $778 million, while live cattle and sheep exports accounted for significant portions, at $1.268m and $259m respectively.

Japan, the US, Korea and China continued to underpin the value of beef exports, with the four largest markets accounting for 75 per cent of export value.

Similarly, the Middle East and North Africa, the US and China accounted for 66 per cent of sheep meat export value.

Live cattle exports remain focused on Southeast Asia, reflecting the level of development across key markets and proximity to northern Australia, while sheep exports remain concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa, underpinned by demand for religious slaughter.

National cattle slaughter has increased, due to challenging drought conditions.

National cattle slaughter for July totalled just over 712,000 head, bringing the year-to-date total to 4.5 million head, up 21 per cent year-on-year.

Female slaughter has continued to be a driving force in this increase, making up 54 per cent of the national kill in July, up five percentage points on July 2017.

The 12-month rolling average for July was 48 per cent.

Typically, the Australian cattle herd is considered to be in a contraction phase when the proportion of female slaughter exceeds 47 per cent of total slaughter over a 12-month rolling average.