New Zealand fresh produce is forefront in the minds of Chinese consumers

17 March 2016

One of the many fun things about my job as Regional Director in China is that I often get asked to be an ‘expert’ about something. 

"New Zealand companies that try and take short-cuts will not only destroy their own sales but also risk trade within an entire sector along with the broad reputation of our country for producing safe, high quality food."

Glen Murphy -NZTE Regional Director China

Last week was a great example where I found myself in Hangzhou, centre-stage at Tmall’s Fresh Food Summit as a member of a panel of experts on “Globalisation of the Fresh Food Industry”. 

Luckily the research I’d done with the team here meant that I was able to answer the couple of questions that came my way, but I was also lucky to have Matt Crawford -Zespri’s China corporate relations manager - on the panel beside me. I knew that if any truly difficult questions came my way I could deflect them over to Matt who actually is an expert on this and many other subjects. 

As I sat on stage and stared back at the audience it was clear that Matt and I were the only non-Chinese present at the summit. 

That also means New Zealand was the only country to be invited. This is testament to the work that New Zealand companies like Zespri have done to build relationships with the key e-commerce players. Even more importantly I believe it relates to the reputation of New Zealand food products in the Chinese market. 

A study by DDMA China Market Research recently had wealthy Chinese grocery buyers rank food producing countries against a number of criteria. New Zealand was ranked first on having:  

  • A clean and natural environment 
  • High quality agricultural products used in food production 
  • Strict and well-enforced food safety standards 
  • Companies that value quality over profit 
  • Trustworthy food companies 

This is an outstanding position to have in the minds of Chinese consumers and we should be proud of this position and understand that we - government and industry - have to work hard to protect this position. 

Recent examples show us that New Zealand companies that try and take short-cuts will not only destroy their own sales but also risk trade within an entire sector along with the broad reputation of our country for producing safe, high quality food. 

The Tmall Fresh summit also highlighted that fresh food is being seen as a key battle-ground by online and offline retailers in China. It’s an area where they see unique opportunities to bring experience and choice to Chinese consumers. The online players in particular are reaching deep into China with their offerings and distribution.

Tmall is proudly pushing their reach right down to village level and recently NZTE’s Consulting Chef, Dion McGrath, was invited to ‘star’ in a Tmall promotion to highlight this expansion. Dion travelled to a village in Shaanxi province where he was filmed preparing a meal of fresh New Zealand seafood in the home of one of the village families. Earlier the film crew had been to New Zealand to film the product being taken from the sea. 

Realistically a tier five village is not going to be the target market for premium New Zealand products but the publicity and exposure from this promotion is priceless. Dion also reckons it’s one of the most fun cooking experiences he’s had in his 20+ years as a chef. 

The willingness of online and offline retailers to promote to New Zealand products their shoppers and the positive reputation our fresh food has in the minds of Chinese consumers can only spell opportunity for Kiwi producers.