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Photo report PMA Fresh Connections: China

China: The future of retail, premium brands and increased domestic production

On March 21, Fresh Connections: China took place in the Southern city of Shenzhen.

Fresh Connections: China is an annual conference organised by PMA (Produce Marketing Association) to shed light on the changing produce industry in China, and globally, and to assemble a strong group of industry experts.

The conference primarily focuses on developments in China's fresh produce industry, whilst linking these developments with overal trends in the global industry.

The program consisted of a series of lectures and panel discussions held by a range of international speakers.

To look back at the full program, including speakers, click here

To see the photo report, click here

Speakers were made up from an interesting mix of domestic Chinese and international market leaders and experts coming from different backgrounds in the industry.

Fresh Connections: China
The morning sessions included a warmly received 'State of the Industry' report by Cathy Burns, CEO of the PMA. In her speech she touched upon several remarkable trends, pushed by overall developments such as the internet of things. New developments including smart refrigerators equipped with internal cameras and local shops that fully function without cashiers were touched upon. Challenges the industry is facing, including labor shortage and how to keep younger people engaged were also discussed. There is an urgent need to move forward, with people's diets becoming more plant based and a shift towards plant based proteins and meals.

A take on the latest technological developments was given by Ed Treacy of the PMA and Dan Sun of Harvestmark, through their combined presentation on blockchain technology. The duo explained the technology briefly and, more importantly, introduced a number of ways in which it already is, and will increasingly become, relevant to the produce industry. “Start thinking about how blockchain can help your company beat inefficiencies and determine which upstream and downstream related partners can become part of your blockchain. Discuss what information you are willing to share, as a company, and how to determine your own rules on what data you are willing to give and to whom,” was the core message to the audience.

The importance of branding and premium fruit offerings, and the successes they have had on the Chinese market, were outlined in a panel discussion headed by Lisa Cork from Fresh Produce Marketing, with contributions from Qidong Zhu from Pagoda, Jade Shan, of Mr. Avocado, and Mike Preacher from Domex Superfresh Growers.

Clockwise from top left; Cathy Burns, PMA, Eric Li, Yiguo, Steve Barnard, Mission Produce and Jade Shan, Mr. Avocado.

To see the photo report, click here

“Consumers remember taste, ” commented Qidong Zhu, “as such, strong and tasty varieties are important for Pagoda’s sales and brand recognition”. Jade Shan explained how Mr. Avocado's ripening programs have propelled fresh avocado sales in China. “Ripening solves a number of problems across the supply chain; increased product control for the supplier, less inventory for retailers and better quality for consumers,” according to Jade. “Issues at the traditional wholesale market, negative customer experiences and the risk that the fruit may blacken in people’s homes are problems that we have been solving with our ripening programs.”

In the coming weeks Freshplaza will highlight some of the speeches and sessions in further articles

Chinese domestic fruit production is increasing and improving. Lu Fangxiao, President of the China Fruit Marketing Association, referred to a number of production and pricing trends. Total domestic fruit production continues to increase, but there are a number of challenges arising, including volatile prices and persistent gaps in the cold chain.

The above was explored in the session "The Impact of China’s Increased Domestic Production", moderated by Darren Keating, CEO of PMA Australia-New Zealand. Speakers were Mau Wah Liu, Chairman of the board at Joy Wing Mau, and Jae Chun, Vice President and General Manager of Asia Pacific at Driscoll’s China. Four years ago Driscoll’s started blueberry and raspberry production in China. “We felt strongly we could produce a better berry for the Chinese market,” explained Jae Chun. “Successfully growing berries locally can only be done when the entire value chain is aligned in delighting consumers. In our experience, demand for quality has skyrocketed.”

Mau Wah Liu referred to the many changes in the consumption of fruits in China. “The middle class is emerging strongly and E-tail and other retail developments are promoting China’s fruit consumption. Consumers can now search, shop and pay online.” He is strongly positive about the future of the industry: “Chinese fruit consumption lags behind global consumption patterns and still can go as high as even double.” Another encouraging trend is that the per ton value of imported fruits keeps on increasing.

To see the photo report, click here

Mau Wah Liu is the founder and currently Chairman of the Board at Joy Wing Mau. He notes that the total fruit industry is, still, growing fast in China. Chinese fruit consumption still lacks behind global consumption per person and can go up to double.

The day was concluded with the session Thinking like a Global CEO, headed by Cathy Burns, CEO of PMA. On the panel were David Marguleas from Sun-World, Tim Riley, of The Giumarra Companies, Steve Barnard, Mission Produce and Adrielle Dankier from Nature's Pride. Large questions where discussed openly, including ‘How to establish a business that crosses borders?’, ‘What is a strategic choice you made and how did you benefit from the change?’ and ‘What keeps you up at night?’.

Changing retail
The day before the conference, a retail tour was organized across some of China's fastest growing and scene-setting retailers who have stores in Shenzhen. The tour was primarily aimed at international visitors who wanted to get an understanding of China's current retail scene. Stores visited included Ole (part of the CR Vanguard chain), Sam's Club, Yonghui Superstores, Pagoda and Hema Fresh.

Group's photo of the international crowd that travelled down to Shenzhen to attend PMA Fresh Connections: China and the retail tours organised during the days before the conference.

A clear trend in China is that e-commerce and brick and mortar shops are starting to merge, in a trend headed by online giants Alibaba and, as well as retail giants such as Wallmart. During the conference, a session moderated by Patrick Vizzone of ANZ Bank and contributed to by Eric Li of Yiguo and Mike Li of touched upon these topics.

To see photos from the retail tour, click here

Terry Chan, Dole China, in conversation with Jose Antonio Gomez, Camposol, at an Olé supermarket, part of the CR Vanguard chain.

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