China update

Jen Scoular

With our export markets in full swing we have been continuing the global interaction needed to support that. I met with the Hass Avocado Board to hear first hand about the research they are undertaking on the health attributes of avocados. The Hass Avocado Board are a great example of global collaboration. They are funded by a levy on all Hass avocados sold in the US, including those grown in the US. Federal law supports that levy which ensure that a percentage of all sales of avocados are invested into marketing or research on avocados, supporting the sustainability of the industry. Currently the HAB supports 11 different university led research programmes across a number of areas, heart health, diabetes, weight management and across a number of demographics including mums, babies and the obese. It’s fantastic to see new information coming out. We see this as real evidence to suggest demand for avocados is not going to lessen any time soon.

You may have read about the study where researchers will pay participants to eat avocados every day, on top of their normal diet. The hypothesis is that avocado consumption decreases stomach fat, and does not have a detrimental effect of increasing weight, even though the person is consuming more calories. The bad news for lean people keen to get free avocados is that is that you have to have a stomach diameter of more than 102cm to be considered.

After the trail shipment of avocados to China in February this year, the last step in a long process to gain access to the China market for avocados, exporters have this season shipped the first commercial shipments. Just Avocados and Avanza have now shipped the first avocados to China, a market of great interest to our industry. The opportunity is enormous but exporters are also very aware of the challenges. Jacob Darling, GM of Sales and Marketing at Just Avocados said that

“It’s a market that we believe is still going to be challenging. We’ve got a lot of work to do we think in terms of differentiating New Zealand avocado from other origins so we can extract a premium from the marketplace.”

China is experiencing growth in avocado demand of over 250% a year from the big producers, Mexico, Chile and Peru. As a small producer we have a lot of work to do to create our own niche market, and as an industry, we will work with exporters to establish a niche market for our avocados. It’s a new challenge for our industry to go into a market that is dominated by the large producers, but we believe, working together and marketing the unique attributes of our avocados will enable our avocados to stand out and demand a premium. Our WeChat social media activity in China this season is all about learning about the consumer, ensuring every post is seeking feedback from the consumer on what they think about our avocados, which health attributes is of the most value to them and how they eat avocados.

I joined our Deputy Prime Minister in Bangkok at an event to open the 2018-19 New Zealand avocado season in Thailand.  Popularity of avocados in Thailand is on the increase, driven by the health attributes and the trendy status of avocados. Kalamare Benjamas, a celebrity in Thailand with 2.6m followers on Instagram, was our MC and did a wonderful job extolling the virtues of avocados, of New Zealand and of the amazing dishes the celebrity chef prepared for the 50 or 60 media and industry invitees. We received great coverage after the event, and will have great footage and collateral from the event to use on our digital platforms over the export season.

As an exporting industry we know how important it is to know our consumer and visiting the market is a great way to build that knowledge. Our exporters will be in and out of export markets through the season to visit their customers and see their avocados in store. We are looking forward to a strong export season while we enjoy the continued excellent demand for our wonderful avocados in the New Zealand market.

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