Asiafruit Magazine’s China conference event opened in Shanghai with a key takeaway message for businesses looking to crack into the market: develop your brand story.
Expert speakers opened the event hosted by Asiafruit Magazine, analysing China’s consumer and retail trends, and offering insights into ways to delve into China’s emerging markets in tier-two and tier-three cities.
Ben Cavender from China Market Research opened the event with an overview of the consumers trends in China, and the future for fresh produce, followed by Andrew Kuiler from the Silk Initiative, who spoke on the factors that are key to not only developing, but also maintaining, a trusted brand in China.
“The focus shouldn’t be in first-tier cities,” Cavender told delegates, adding that the key to success is to focus on developing trust among consumers in tier-two and tier-three cities. “There’s been a lot of changes in the past five to ten years in how consumers see the world.”
Pollution, food safety and the crackdown on corruption have all influenced consumer trends, with a move away from tangible items towards ‘experiences’ and premium, healthy food – an opportunity for the fresh produce industry to make inroads in China's emerging markets.
As a result, branding and brand origins are increasingly important, said Cavender, adding that companies should focus on what their brands stand for and building a story behind their brand.
Following in the same vein, Andrew Kuiler from China-based consultancy the Silk Initiative, delved into the importance of developing a brand story and providing the right product format for the Chinese market, as well as ensuring the product has the right packaging.
“How do you build an effective brand infrastructure?” asked Kuiler. From brand positioning, to securing the right delivery, engaging consumers and then working to maintain success, Kuiler offered delegates a warning for those looking to establish their brand in China; “relaxing can be fatal.”
For fresh produce companies, Kuiler said the opportunities lay in value-added products, with exporters and suppliers needed a point of differentiation in order to successfully launch their product in China and capture a slice of the emerging markets, where consumers are increasingly turning away from wet markets to speciality retailers.
“Chinese consumers are expecting more from the fruit and vegetable space,” Kuiter said. “Purchasing fruit and vegetables is still a tactile experience – people want to touch and feel mangoes and pineapples.”
While there is a transition to high-end grocers, in tier-two and tier-three cities demand is outstripping supply, with consumers increasingly travelling overseas and to tier one cities, seeing the produce and products available, and so turn to online retailers to meet their demands.
“Ten years ago it was about the hypermarkets – they were the premium space. Now, hypermarkets are dead to the consumers – they don’t like the shopping experience,” Cavender said.
With 140 delegates from 14 countries, Asiafruit Market Insight offered a conference event for the Chinese and international fresh produce trade.
“Asiafruit Market Insight is a meeting point for business here in China. We want you to network, to come here to do business, and to find out about some of the trends that are happening here in the market,” Asiafruit's managing director Chris White told delegates.
The Asiafruit Market Insight conference took place at the Hilton Hotel in Shanghai on 21 May, after a successful events in Hangzhou last year, and Qingdao in 2013.