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New Zealand’s top food and beverage makers are preparing to show their products to key customers in East Asia in 2016, in a bid to increase sales in one of the world’s fastest growing regions.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) runs the Food Connection trade shows, which are seen as a good launching pad for companies wanting to export to the region.
In 2015 companies shook hands on $13 million of export deals, and NZTE’s programme leader for East Asia, Vivienne Williams, says Food Connection is a highlight for the industry.
“The companies get to meet with potential distributors and conduct product sampling and receive feedback from professionals in the East Asian food and beverage industry,” says Williams.
Among those celebrating new deals is boutique South Island wine maker, Waimea Estates, which signed up new agents in Singapore and Malaysia, and despatched good sized orders of their premium wine range to those markets.
Waimea’s export manager Martin Carrington says Food Connection is an important event on the estate’s calendar.
“We had been corresponding with a number of potential customers in Asia and the timing of the Food Connection trade shows along with the support of the NZTE team and their network was an excellent conduit in bringing it all together for us,” says Carrington.
For many New Zealand companies, expanding into East Asia is the next logical step because it is the closest regional market after Australia, and a critical player in the global economy.
The Asian region’s growth has outstripped that of the West, and in the 30-year period from 1990 to 2020, the region’s share of global economic growth (GDP) is projected to nearly double to 30.8 percent. 
Williams says consumers in East Asia are increasingly aware of the quality of New Zealand made products, and the high standards of food safety.
“Our food and beverage products have a good, solid reputation as being high quality and people really like the clean and green image of the country,” she says.
That’s something York Spencer can vouch for, after attending Food Connection’s event in Japan. He founded Manukee, which makes premium health drinks with certified UMF manuka honey.
Spencer (who also goes by the title BeeEO) has a wealth of experience working in the F&B industry in Asia and the Pacific, and says Food Connection gave Manukee a foothold in the market.
The company is in final negotiations to send a large shipment of its wellness drinks to a distributor in Japan. Its products will be on the shelves of many of the country’s high end supermarkets by the middle of 2016.
“We’re really excited exporting to Japan because it’s such a sophisticated market and we expect a lot of demand for our drinks,” Spencer says.
He says customers at the Food Connection event were very interested to find out about the Manukee products, which use honey sourced from hives that are accessed by helicopter in remote New Zealand bush.
Spencer says meeting key customers in the Japanese food and beverage industry was really important. “The main benefit is you get the ability to cut through and communicate with more focused decision makers, and build relationships with key people at NZTE. That’s helpful because you get the ability to network with the right people,” says Spencer.
This year’s Food Connection events are being held in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Tokyo, Seoul, and Busan.
The aim is to maximise contacts and potential leads for New Zealand producers, and participants can attend as many events as they wish. 
For more information about Food Connection 2016 visit
To register for Food Connection 2016, contact Noriko Tanaka: [email protected] 
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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