Australian citrus is hitting the campaign trail in Asia, with promotions set to launch this week in China, the Philippines and Japan.

Citrus Australia held promotions in all these countries in 2014, and it is repeating them this year – this time as part of the ‘Now In Season’ campaign run by the Victorian State government (DEDJTR). The promotions are funded through Australian grower levies administered by Horticulture Innovation Australia.

In China, launch events are scheduled for Shanghai and Chengdu, according to Andrew Harty, market development manager at peak industry body Citrus Australia. A 'Taste and See’ restaurant media event is scheduled for 31 July in Shanghai. In Chengdu, meanwhile, a launch promotion will be held on 7 August with major supermarket chain Ito-Yokado, which is being coordinated by importer Golden Wing Mau.

“This is the first time we have gone beyond the eastern seaboard with a promotion, and it’s an exciting move into the west of China,” Harty told Asiafruit.

Sam’s Club and Olé stores, owned be Walmart and CR Vanguard respectively, are also participating in the retail promotions.

Citrus Australia is also conducting an online campaign with e-commerce companies in China. “We started our online promotions last year, and we found this to be an efficient way of getting our message out to millions of people at a relatively low cost,” said Harty. “We supply collateral, shopper gifts and brochures, then the companies go off and develop their own videos and other promotions. It’s also a great way to get feedback from our customers.”

‘Vintage season’

While last season’s Australian citrus campaign in China faced some setbacks with quality and fruit size, Harty said that this year’s crop marks a return to form.

“This is a vintage season – it’s a common phrase we hear, but it really is cracker this year,” said Harty. “Last year, we had quite a rough-looking crop but this year the appearance is spectacular with fantastic flavour and great sizing. Packhouses are enjoying very high packouts.”

Early demand from China and other export markets has been strong as a result, he adds. “We’re back on track in China and it’s firing at the moment. China has to be one of the most responsive markets – we’ve been flooded with enquiries for product.”

Harty is optimistic that orange exports to China will see a 30-40 percent increase in volume this season. While Honey Murcott mandarins are yet to kick off from Queensland, Harty said the industry was also hopeful of boosting shipments to China, particularly with the recent closure of the Indonesian market.

Philippines expansion

Citrus Australia is also taking its ‘vintage quality’ message to the Philippines, where launch events are due to take place with major retailers in both Manila and Davao under the Now In Season initiative.

“Previously, we have only promoted in Manila but we’re going south this year with the promotions in Davao and the industry will be shipping fruit direct into Davao,” he said. ‘Vanessa Perez and the Austrade team in Manila will be working with the Victorian government team to repeat and expand the excellent 2014 promotions.”

The retail launch in Davao will take place on 28 July with major supermarket chain S&R, while a launch event will also take place at Shopwise’s Alabang store in Manila on 7 August. As well as Shopwise and S&R, Australian citrus promotions will run across several other retailers, including Robinson, Rustans and SM Hypermarket.

Australia shipped around 3,600 tonnes of citrus to the Philippines last year, and Harty expects significant expansion this year. “I think the Philippines has the potential to become a 10,000-tonne market for us in the next two years.”

Developing such markets is key for the industry, not least in the wake of the loss of Indonesia, which recently closed its doors to Australian citrus. “The loss of Indonesia was very unfortunate– it was a 10,000-tonne market and our biggest mandarin market,” he added. “We are urging our government to take whatever action they can to resolve the issue.”

In Japan, the programme will consist of in-store promotions with retailers, with on-the-ground support provided by local Austrade and the Victorian state government offices. “We’re working with a small number of retailers on a fairly direct basis,” said Harty. “There are five retailers who have a mixture of high-end and mainstream stores and they give us a good geographical spread.”

The retail promotions in Japan will run throughout August, and the participating retailers include Aeon, Life, Yaoko, York Mart and York Beni.

Collaborative approach

Launched in April by the Victorian state government, the Now In Season promotion takes a whole-of-industry approach to promoting Australian fruit to retailers and consumers in Asia. Australia’s stonefruit, table grape and apple and pear industries have already worked together on promotions across South East Asia, and now citrus has joined up to extend the programme.

“Now In Season is great way to get unity across our industries. One of the key strengths is the continuity and consistency of Australia’s promotional presence with consumers and retailers,” said Harty. “The campaign is at the developmental stage but it's a very positive start and we’re right behind it.”