Dubai, Blueberry Oasis!
USA Pet industry — $69 billion dollar industry!
For the past five years we have been visiting the Global Pet Expo — known as GPE to all of us pet people! Year one — we saw a few interesting products with blueberry. Year two — gaining interest.
Now — check out the tour of GPE 2017. Blueberries everywhere!
This massive exposition is a tribute to how far the Chinese food industry has advanced.
In brief: Chinese companies look for specific frozen product for preparations and jams as well as powders and dried. The audience is almost all from China. All over the place including Inner Mongolia, the far west of Xinjiang and Tibet.
A place to meet old friends and new.
Some random observations:
Export trade shows — bring to mind national pavilions, exotic products from all over the world. This tradition goes back hundreds of years where traders from all over the world would meet at central locations yearly to sell their wares. USHBC has entered a new era of market development abroad where we are working directly with food processing companies to get blueberries and blueberry ingredient solutions into new and current products.
Welcome to Food Ingredient China!
China is a vast land with food processors spread over 23 provinces.
State enterprises and hybrids. China is a centrally planned economy and still has a system of state enterprises involved in farming, and processing. The State enterprise China National Cereal Oil and Foodstuffs, now COFCO is a good example.
Back in the 80s when I first visited China — almost all food factories were state owned. You also had one flavor of orange soda on the menu! Many are gone but a number continue. More often these state enterprises have evolved into multi unit and product companies. Some are hybrid state and private. Some are joint ventures.
Foreign Firms. Investment by outsiders in food businesses was a rush in the 90s as companies from around the world sought the key to unlocking the billion person population. Initially– all the big multinationals attempted to start up operations.
This traditional HK company operates wholesale bakeries all over China.
You will see Dove confectionery in Beijing. Nestle – in the dairy business. What you do not see are all of the companies who came and left. The remaining companies are the ones who came into China, planted roots and continued to hammer away at the challenges of the China market which include labor, local regulations and all sorts of other matters.
One success factor — many of the leading food processing companies in China have “overseas Chinese roots.” These are the successful companies from Taiwan (also known here as one of the 23 provinces, but seen differently on the Island nation also known as the Republic of China).
President Enterprises from Taiwan is one of the leading if not the largest food conglomerate in Asia — From Taiwan. Hong Kong Companies like Garden; companies from Singapore and “overseas Chinese-operated firms from all over Greater China have flourished.
Examples: Ichichdo Bakeries, 85 degrees coffee shops. The list goes on.
Want a good cup of coffee in China — look no further than this chain. Taiwan roots — like many Taiwan companies have larger mainland China holdings than back home. They even have branches in Southern California now.
Local Firms. Chinese food companies have been transformed into industry and world leaders. They buy the best equipment, have a steady pool of highly trained and well educated research and development and workforce. Companies like Yi-Li Dairy in Inner Mongolia are world class and produce products for the domestic and world markets.
Back to Food Ingredients China.
The Chinese consumer of today is similar to consumers all over the developed world. They demand quality products, new innovation and very importantly — safe foods. China has been rocked by food safety scandals. Consumers are vigilant. Companies are on call to meet consumer demand and “up their game” to compete with imports.. Just like back in the USA — companies are looking for “ingredient solutions.” Walking the show on setup day here in Shanghai — it looked identical to the In statute of Food Technologists exhibitions where we attend back home.
Manufacturers are looking for turn-key ingredients that add value to a product, have positive consumer awareness — and blueberries certainly match that bill. Here in the food industry, the companies are looking for ingredients with specific characteristics such as low moisture, extrudability, (processing plants foods must be delivered and pumped into systems). Most importantly — manufacturers are looking for safe foods. Local companies will paste all sorts of quality certificates all over their booths. But the North American origin says it all — Quality, Safety and Satisfaction!
Remember back in 1990 — NABC made it’s appearance at the Foodex Exposition in Japan. The blueberry team arrived in Tokyo after a major earthquake, made it to the trade show area hours late and almost lost our entire booth in the parking lot of the train station! We made it and greeting us at the booth on the first day was a news crew from the national television network (NHK) who was doing a feature on blueberries and health. This footage evolved into a 20 minute new program that helped launch blueberries in Japan.
The message: Get into the field and make things happen!
Jump ahead to 2017. A lot has changed. Blueberries have survived dozens of fad cycles. Typically a new product sensation has a year or two before the public moves on to another. Blueberries have experienced a few huge spikes in usage and normally a plateau and then growth. Blueberries in Japan are now in a mature market. In the next few blog posts we will look at the Japanese market.
Back to Foodex! This has become a regional trade show for Asia. During our four days at the show we met with hundreds of attendees from all over Asia. The USDA brought in 95 companies from Taiwan. Korean companies were everywhere. Middle-Eastern and African companies showed interest.
The action was in the Japan Pavilion where some of the most sophisticated food processing companies in the world showed their new products. Like the USA, blueberries have entered an “ingredient solution” phase of marketing. Where fresh and frozen were the choice in 1990 — now we are seeing companies utilizing dried blueberries, freeze dry, microwave dried, powders, juice and purees and puree concentrates. Companies are looking for ways to immediately add blueberries to a product.
Stay tuned a lot of blueberry action in the field to report!
Here are just a few shots from the Foodex 2017!
Taiwan, (Republic of China) was one of the first markets which NABC and later USHBC approached in the 1990s. From zero, the shipments of fresh rose gradually to over 1.5 million lbs in 2015. Now, the country of 23.5 million appreciates frozen blueberries! Thank you Taiwan.
The packaging touts the USA origin and IQF process. The 400 gram pack is perfect for a week of home made smoothies which are a hit in Taiwan. Now — let’s see if we can get it into bubble teas!
Each year the buyers, sellers and suppliers to the frozen food industry congregate on the West Coast for an annual meeting. Some still call it “Western” but this is the center for frozen food activity worldwide. Welcome to AFFI-Con.
For the past five years, USHBC has exhibited with a booth at this event in what is called the “hub area.” This is where registrants sign in and also gather in between scheduled meetings. This event is all about meetings. In the evening this is also the place where craft beers are dispensed!
AFFI brings together suppliers and buyers from around the world and this year we met visitors from all continents. Most importantly — this was an opportunity to meet our blueberry industry people. The USHBC was the place to be at AFFI and a great place to hang out, talk with USHBC and other blueberry industry attendees.
For me — the “Blueberry Guy” the most important thing was getting to meet attendees who do not attend out bi-annual meetings. See you next year!
Things are looking up for blueberries in the Gulf.
The USHBC booth has attracted visitors from throughout the region and many are already familiar with blueberries and associate with health — especially as a food that is good for diabetics. Media in the region have published articles on blueberries and health and it has certainly boosted interest!
Meet your new customers. We were especially interested in companies from Saudi Arabia which has a major food processing sector.