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With one eye on China and the other on the United States, local New Zealand exporters risk missing out on small but potentially profitable markets right next door in the Pacific.
Recent branding and packaging design assignments by Auckland creative agency gardyneHOLT in both Vanuatu and Fiji highlighted the often-overlooked fact that many Pacific Islands are emerging economies, and that ignoring them could be a missed opportunity in the long run.
GardyneHOLT creative director, Fraser Gardyne, said the Pacific is a market where New Zealand businesses can assist our neighbours using Kiwi skills and expertise, on the understanding that while budgets will be limited to begin with the resulting long-term successful business relationships may be beneficial to all parties.
However New Zealand's historic position of influence in the near Pacific is under siege, as China fosters trade in the Pacific with billions of dollars in funding, trade forums and infrastructure projects from Beijing – ironically while Kiwis are eyeing China.
One project gardyneHOLT has assisted with in the Pacific has been the refreshing of the brand identify of Vinod Patel, Fiji's largest chain of hardware stores.
“Another one of our customers is Venui Vanilla in Vanuatu. The company sells organic certified spices to countries like Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and some Asian nations like Japan.
“Much of their previous trade – in vanilla and spices, peppercorns, ginger, turmeric and chilli pepper – was previously exclusively in bulk, but emerging opportunities and growth have resulted in some shift to a retail focus. As a result they needed specific packaging designed for international markets.
“New Zealand has good skills, intellectual property and other marketable services and products that can really add value for our Pacific neighbours."
“By helping them develop, we help ourselves and a mutually beneficial relationship quickly grows at far less of a cost than doing business in countries further afield,” he said.
Vanui Vanilla Co.’s Piero Bianchessi – who visits Auckland from time to time – said he engaged gardyneHOLT when his company wanted to repackage its range of retail spice products for export.
"I met Fraser Gardyne when I was in Auckland for the trade show 'Pacific Showcase' held at the Cloud on Queens Wharf. On the Sunday morning, as part of the 'Pacific Showcase' event, Fraser gave a number of our group of Pacific manufacturers a short talk on brand and packaging, which really resonated with me,” he said.
'Pacific Showcase' was hosted by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NZTE, just prior to the Rugby World Cup in September 2011. In a similar vein The Pacific Cooperation Foundation has also developed an initiative called ‘True Pacific’, to bring the very best Pacific products to New Zealand. 
Venui Vanilla qualified to carry the True Pacific quality mark by meeting strict quality and business practice standards.
A further reflection of the quality coming out of the Pacific are Vanui Vanilla’s other credentials, which include membership of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and organic certification with AsureQuality (the IFOAM accredited certification body from New Zealand).
Bianchessi said his company needed flat packaging to reduce freight costs and, because it is a retail export product, they wanted professional design that reflected the premium nature of the spices. 
“It was a fortunate meeting and I am delighted with the results gardyneHOLT have since developed with us. 
“Even from my remote island home in Vanuatu, communication through the design process was quick and easy using email, particularly when you compare it to twenty years ago when it would have been just too difficult working between Luganville on Espiritu Santo and Auckland." 
He said he believed that a growing export economy in the Pacific Islands represents good opportunities for New Zealand companies and vice versa.
“For example, at the moment we’re looking for a retail distributor in New Zealand. A focus on quality in various products here means that more and more local businessmen appreciate the value of doing business with our neighbours,” he said.
Gardyne said he would like to see more New Zealand companies contemplating doing business with the Pacific because strong neighbours will stand New Zealand in good stead in the future.
“Not only that, doing business with the neighbours is cheap… it saves on transport and time costs, and people are more likely to know, understand and trust their New Zealand neighbours. It's the market where global distance works in our favour, rather than against us.
“A good idea for local New Zealand companies is to make sure your business website is optimised for local search traffic coming from the Pacific Islands,” he said.
Glenn Baker

Professional writer/editor with 35-plus years experience - including radio copywriting, various television writing/production roles, and writing for business magazines. I have also co-owned a wholesale food distribution business.

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