How has COVID-19 changed how you foster/enhance your key relationships in China?
Covid-19 created extra demand for New Zealand organic apples. Chinese consumers were not going out to the wet markets or wholesalers to buy their fruit. They were buying from trusted retailers who were our customers. The consumers turned to organics as they trust it more and believe it’s safer for them and their families.
We have worked hard over the last few years to strengthen our relationships with our Chinese customers, travelling to China to physically meet with our customers. These strong relationships have been valuable during this time as we work to set up our programmes for the coming season.
How do you maintain a physical presence?
We are part of the PCNZ (Primary Collaboration NZ) which means we have a physical presence on the ground in China with market representatives who are able to meet with our customers. Our involvement in PCNZ gives us a physical in-market presence, which has been extremely beneficial during this time.
How do your NZ-based (or HB-based) staff now interact with those that you do business with in China?
China is very advanced with its social media and digital platforms. We have been interacting with our customers regularly via WeChat, email and Zoom.
I visited China last November just before the COVID-19 outbreak. This physical visit was very valuable as I fostered direct relationships with our customers’ marketing teams and could react quickly when we needed to change our marketing strategy to focus more online when our first organic apples arrived in February. We had planned a lot of offline promotions in supermarkets, but when Chinese consumers were staying home and not visiting the supermarket, we had to change tact quickly and move to online promotions. Having direct relationships with our Chinese customers meant that we could do this quickly and effectively. We have continued to foster these relationships digitally.
Are you seeing a downturn or do you remain optimistic about trade in China?
We are very optimistic about the Chinese market. China is a growing and developing market for us and we continue to develop the premium direct-to-retail channel. Over the past nine years, Bostock New Zealand has invested in new IP apple varieties that are sweet high colour apples, targeting the growing Asian market. A large part of our marketing strategy focuses on establishing sales in the developing Asian markets through these new premium varieties namely Dazzle, Premier Star and Diva. We are working closely with NZTE to help us develop the China market, establish our New Zealand apple brands at a premium and ultimately grow sales.