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Alastair Hulbert, CEO, T&G Global

"Thailand has exceeded expectations for kiwifruit and grapes"

With an enormous Asian market just around the corner and great demand for various products, companies in New Zealand have a luxury position. T&G Global is strengthening its position in Asian countries. The company has enjoyed a 20-year plus relationship with Asia including Japan and Singapore. More recently that relationship has extended to other south-eastern markets including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

The New Zealand-headquartered T&G Global looks back on a good year. At the start of last year, an agreement was signed with Zespri about marketing kiwifruit to a number of Asian markets, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. The company is on course to reach its objective of having a 1.3-billion-euro turnover in 2022. Recently the company, which celebrates its 120th year in business in 2017, closed the books of 2016 with a growth of 67 percent in profit after tax.

Alastair Hulbert, CEO of T&G Global.

Jazz in Asia
Besides the cooperation agreement with Zespri, T&G opened offices in Thailand and China to be closer to its customers. The end of 2016 also saw T&G’s first table grapes harvested in Peru. The table grapes, destined for Asia, Europe and North America, were grown on 100 hectares T&G owns in the northern region of Piura. A further 200 hectares will be planted this year to fulfil demand.

“We’re supplying some of our long-term customers in Asia with our grapes for their respective markets, as well as the Middle East and Latin America which are emerging as strong markets for Peruvian produce.”

T&G’s Asian business is steadily growing thanks to increased in-market support says CEO Alastair Hulbert. “We’ve opened offices in Asia over the past two years to better support our customers in-market and it’s paying good dividends for all parties. Thailand for example has exceeded our expectations in volume for kiwifruit and table grapes and our Jazz and Envy apples are also performing very well in this market.” According to Alastair, the popularity of Jazz and Envy is due to a combination of strong sales and marketing and the fruit itself. “Asia has many street vendors who sell our apples. Despite the heat, Jazz remains consistently crunchy and refreshing which is why it’s so popular with consumers, and why we see demand increasing.”

Asia becoming more important
Alastair says about 40 per cent of T&G’s sales now come from Asian markets but the business remains equally committed to its other key markets including Europe, the US, UK and the Middle East. “We have an extensive portfolio of sales markets. Focusing on just one market is not wise and that is not part of our strategy.”

Last year, European importers complained about the limited volume of apples that was available from New Zealand for the continent. “In general New Zealand’s focus is shifting towards Asia,” Alistair noted. “But the supply of varieties has also changed. We are looking for a good mix to keep all markets satisfied.” Additionally, T&G has a considerable production of Jazz and Envy in Spain and the UK, which service the European markets.

Alastair Hulbert: “In general New Zealand’s focus is shifting towards Asia.”

Retail and street vendors
“Every market is unique,” according to the CEO. “The European market is mature, and retail operates efficiently. The American market is very focused on retail, and presentation of products plays a more important role there. The Asian market is different. Wholesalers dominate the market, and although the retail segment is growing, specialist’s shops and street vendors play an important role in our sales”.

Consumers across the globe also place varying levels of focus on organic products. “Organic and local products are not as strong in Asia as say in Europe or the UK,” Alastair explains. “Food safety is more important in Asia. Consumers often choose well-known brands or import products because they have confidence it is safe. Some Chinese consumers even go as far to research online about growers and distributors to check if apples being presented at retail are actually what they claim to be and not lower quality apples trying to be passed off as premium like our Envy apples.”

Technology changes the market
Changes in technology are being embraced by the fresh produce industry despite relying so heavily on Mother Nature. T&G was in fact the first company to export refrigerated containers of kiwifruit from New Zealand in 1959 to Asia. “In the past 20 to 30 years fruit has been transported thanks to technological developments. We have seen increasing volumes of fruit and vegetables transported all over the world,” Alastair says. “Technology is enabling longer production windows in regions closer to population centres. This has the potential to reduce the need to ship the current volumes of product globally. In years to come technology will play an even bigger role in supply and demand dynamics and in fact, the supply chain overall. It’s an exciting time to be in the fresh produce industry.”

More information:
Jo Jalfon
T&G Global Limited
Mob: +64 27 201 2645

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