Key to Central’s fruit export success
A lot of Chinese consumers want to hear what food blogger, author, mother and New Zealand-trained chef Jing Li has to say - 19 million in fact.
All eyes were directed at the social media star at a launch of the Central Otago cherry season in Cromwell this month.
The event, hosted by Central Otago Premium Fruit Ltd, was attended by 48 delegates, including international fruit industry representatives from China and Vietnam, wholesalers, airline representatives and Central Otago fruitgrowers.
Shanghai-based New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Trade Commissioner Damon Paling said from a trade perspective New Zealand still faced several ‘‘headwinds’’, but could win in the Chinese market by tapping into social media networks.
‘‘We are small, we are isolated, we are a long way from the market. For example, we do compete against Chile. Chile have, rumour has it, a US$7 million budget for marketing - 95 per cent for use in the China market.
‘‘We look to play to our Kiwi strengths: to be light, to be agile, to innovate...Tapping into social media in a light, agile and inexpensive way is one way for New Zealand to win in China.’’
This included connecting to consumers through bloggers like Ling Ji.
She was considered a ‘‘key opinion leader’’ in China and studied in New Zealand as a chef, he said.
She returned to China, teaching mums how to cook for their children, and was using New Zealand ingredients to promote New Zealand products.
’’That is the new, there is also though the old ... the old school of get-up-and-go, hard-graft that resonates with how we do business in China. We like to think that is a winning formula for Central Otago cherries in the market.’’
Central Otago mayor, Tim Cadogan, who welcomed the guests, said he was proud of the businesses based in Central Otago who were among the best in the world.
‘‘As well as our tourism operators and wine producers, our fruit producers are among the top-class industries we have here in Central Otago. I am lucky enough to have lived here for over 20 years and every year I enjoy the seasons as our fruit comes into crop.
‘‘Just before Christmas every year, I treat myself to a big bag of juicy cherries fresh off the tree...cherries that generations have created.’’
Modern refrigeration techniques and airline connections meant the fruit could be also enjoyed in China.
‘‘I believe there is a great future between Central Otago and China working together. It is very important to me we have a shared history. In 1865, Chinese goldminers started to arrive in Central Otago, by 1871 the number of Chinese goldminers in Central Otago reached 4200. After the gold ran out, some miners chose to stay here and made lives in Otago.’’
Central Otago Premium Fruit Ltd chair Malcolm Macpherson said the event was a unique opportunity for Central Otago Premium Fruit Ltd’s distribution chain partners to celebrate the start of the season together.
Central Otago Premium Fruit Ltd was a premium global brand that marketed and sold Central Otago cherries into Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand, as well as selling apricots into the United States.
‘‘There is no better place in the world to grow cherries and no better cherries grown anywhere in the world.
‘‘For more than 100 years, this region has hand-grown New Zealand’s premium fruit...It is the coldest in the winter, and hottest in the summer and the driest.
‘‘What is so special about our fruit? Clean air, pure water, cold winter nights and long hot summer days. Most of all we have fruitgrowers who know their stuff. They grow sweeter, bigger, crunchier and the better travel- ling cherries than anywhere in the world.
‘‘They do that by treating trees like members of their family from the depths of winter to height of summer. They work all year round producing brilliant trees that grow that great fruit.’’
Shanghai-based New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Trade Commissioner Damon Paling, Chinese food blogger, author, mother and New Zealand-trained chef Jing Li and Foodview’s Zefei Zhou.
Cromwell’s 45 South orchard general manager Tim Jones with this season’s cherries.