Clint Smith of the Silk Initiative and Zhongxing Zhang of McCann Health have told delegates at Asiafruit Congress of the opportunities that lie in using the health benefits of fruit to further promote fresh produce.
Speaking on the importance of building your brand infrastructure, Smith outlined the booming online market in China, where more than half of Chinese consumers were using mobile apps such as WeChat and Alipay to purchase goods, compared to around a quarter of consumers in the US.
“The market is shifting dramatically,” Smith said. “Lower tier cities are the ones that are driving growth, with local competition becoming more fierce.”
Online sales in rural China are projected to grow from US$28bn in 2014 to US$71.6bn in 2016, with cold chain development growing at 25 per cent annually.
Outlining the changes within China, from consumers becoming more savvy and demanding higher-quality produce to government regulations on food safety becoming more strict, Smith said that competition was increasing in China, meaning brand positioning has become central to being successful in the market.
Using leading Chinese e-tailer Fruitday as an example, Smith said that its promotions that teamed oranges with the launch of Disney’s Cinderella film was a great example of continuing to engage with consumers.
“Once in-market, it’s very important that you keep tight control and monitor what’s going on in the market,” Smith said.
Smith also advised companies wanting to enter China not to be put off if consumers don’t take to the product immediately, using avocados as an example.
“Most of us know avocados are very nutritious, but when they first came to China, avocados weren’t very well liked,” Smith said. “Consumers found it greasy and bland, and named it 'butter fruit'. Now, it’s growing in popularity due to the education around its health benefits.”
China’s imports of avocados grew from 31,000kg in 2011 to 4mkg in 2014, with plenty of online and social media-led promotions, including how-to-eat videos to promote the fruit.
McCann Health’s Zhang followed on from Smith’s advice, urging delegates to not be humble when it comes to promoting the health benefits of fruit.
Asiafruit Congress took place at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo on 1 September, the day before Asia Fruit Logistica.
While other packaged products, such as cereals and chocolates, have been using fruit to market their products as ‘healthier’, Zhang said that the fruit industry had been going for a ‘fun’ approach to marketing, losing ground to competitors.
“Let consumers see the link between fruit and the health benefits,” Zhang said. “Communication needs to be changed – nobody has told consumers the health aspects of each specific fruit.”
Using a similar roadmap to selling and promoting pharmaceuticals, Zhang said that in order to promote more fruit, the industry needs to find the evidence of the health benefits, find the target audience, develop the story behind the brand and find an authority that offers professional support to make the brand story believable. Then comes the promotion: reaching communities using multiple platforms.
The final note from Zhang; “Eat less meat and more fruit”.