This is a test. The time: January 26, 2018. The place: 7-11 Convenience store in Ariake, Japan It is slightly below freezing outside.
The store is in a cluster of high-rise buildings occupied by companies like Panasonic and the Tokyo Big Site expo center. Office workers escape their desks and dash to the 7-11 for lunch. On the way to the check out — a stop at the frozen fruit freezer!
Workers, mainly young ladies line up to pick up 130 g packs of frozen fruits (a little more than a quarter pound) — blueberries, strawberries and sliced mangos. It is 12:30 pm and the case is already sold out of blueberries!
What’s up? I asked. Time and again the young ladies point to the skin when asked about their purchase. They top their yogurt, pop the berries right out of the bag.
Blueberries are certainly recognized as a beauty fruit!
Just back from a visit to my favorite (non-USA place on earth)–Taiwan.
Over a hot bowl of snake soup (yes you are reading this correctly) with old friends I was reminded that the North American Blueberry Council (NABC) started market development work in 1997. (I have previously referred to 2000 which is the year that Mark Villata and myself visited Taiwan and our trade show booth was toppled by a major earthquake!) This time I visited several of my old buddies who continue to import blueberries — fresh, dried and now frozen! I always remind them of our first meetings when we were told that “Asians do not like blueberries!” On the walls of offices and warehouses I saw again and again — our famous “Yoga Girl” advertisement which was part of our initial campaign. The ads appeared in Women’s magazines and posters soon were developed for our first fresh promotions. I was reminded that second third and fourth generation Yoga Girl posters are still produced and used and you will see them on the walls of produce terminals, and wholesale warehouses.
Well, it is 2017 and the Yoga Girl spirit remains. Taiwanese associate blueberries with beauty, goodness and overall good karma!
This was a reminder to me from our boosters in Taiwan — you got to have a message, you got to have friends and you got to have boots on the ground!
In Asia, blueberries are often identified as “good for beauty.”
Asian cosmetic companies have pioneered natural cosmetics. This includes:
Cosmetics and skin care items with fruits, vegetables and herbs and extracts.
Cosmaceuticals which are cosmetics made with natural ingredients to provide beneficial functions.
Beauty-from-within. Food products and potions made with natural ingredients that are identified with skin and beauty benefits.
Beauty-in-advance. This is the new hot button where certain ingredients are mixed that when consumed in youth are beneficial to skincare in the golden years.
Like most cosmetics, there is a lot of imagery and not a lot of scientific backup. But, little by little the body of knowledge is expanding — especially in Asia. This is driving fruit usage in the natural cosmetics business.
Check out this video of a recent visit to the Cosme-Tokyo 2018 Exposition in Tokyo. Five years ago it was in a small expo center with a few exhibitors and less attendees. Today, it occupies seven halls of the massive Makuhari Messe and thousands of visitors from all over the world. Enjoy the tour!
Maxim’s, the leading bakery and foodservice chain in Hong Kong has done it again. Check out the video billboard running at subway (MRT) stations throughout Hong Kong. Doesn’t get much better than this!
Maxim’s operates 980 outlets throughout the region with stores in Hong Kong, PRC, Macau, Vietnam and Cambodia.
They are big boosters of blueberry and feature dozens of others besides the surprise cake.
Hana — our mighty motorcycle riding Blueberry FoodTech in Vietnam –called me up Christmas day and told me she was headed to neighboring Laos to check out the market for blueberries.
Welcome Hana to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic!
Here is Hana. Watch out — she drives her scooter very fast! (as do all Vietnamese) Note the image of Ho Chi Minh in the background! Hana holds BS degrees from Ho Chi Minh University in Food Science and Biotechnology. Now she scoots all over the region introducing food processors to USA blueberries!
You probably have not thought much about this mysterious land of around 7 million. This was of course the location of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war. Today, you probably have neighbors from Laos who fought alongside US troops, then moved to America after the war. Many grow strawberries or operate donut shops.
Laos is one of the last Communist countries on Earth and the motto: Independence, Peace Independence, Democracy, Unity and Prosperity.
Silently, this traditional and mysterious country has risen from the rice paddies into one of the fastest growing economies in the region.
All of a sudden they have an international airport, a state airline. The World Bank has invested billions into hydroelectric plants in the North. Investors from throughout Asia — especially South Korea are developing housing, grocery stores and all sorts of business enterprises. Interestingly enough — few donut shops. We have been told that the Laotians are not crazy about the donuts just think of it as a great family business in USA.
So, hold onto your helmet — Here is Hana’s tour of Laos!
US Blueberry growers held strategic planning meetings in 2017. Finding and developing new high value markets overseas was a high-ranking priority. Hana’s Southeast Asian FoodTech campaign carries out this directive. Although most emphasis is on Vietnam and the other “Tiger Economies” such as Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia — the emerging markets are also on the long- term target list. One big takeaway from Hana’s Excellent Laotian Adventure is that countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are now being developed as food processing centers. With abundant skilled labor (no unions) energy and raw materials — Korean, Japanese and European (Mainly Scandinavian) companies are setting up shop in the region. Won’t be long until we see the Real Blueberries ™ Seal in the land of Muang Lao!