Farmers were encouraged to maintain high standards and meet market specifications to help boost exports
Farmers needed to maintain high standards and meet specifications for produce to help the UK food industry build its trade in Asia.
Consumers in Asia were looking for food safety and high standards, which offered the British industry an opportunity to sell itself there, according to AHDB’s latest Horizon report.
And for farmers this meant communicating with their processors or auctioneers to ensure they were producing what the consumer demanded, and keeping standards high to reassure shoppers in these markets.
Understanding the market was key for export success, with Steven Evans, AHDB consumer insight manager, highlighting a popular British product might not have an appeal in Asia.
“For example, beef tongue would be a premium product in Japan,” he said.
Consumers were also keen to find out how their meat was produced, and this opened an opportunity for British exporters to showcase the high standards behind the product.
“It is a big opportunity for the integrated supply chain,” Mr Evans said.
“It goes beyond putting a flag on it - it is providing the back story. We can be proud of how our food is produced.”
Jonathan Eckley, AHDB head of exports, said: “From a farming point of view, you need to produce to the best standards you can.
“Get close to the market and understand where your product is being consumed,” he said.
“Talk to the processor or with your auctioneer.”
Pork exports to China have been a success story for the meat industry and AHDB was looking to build on this in other proteins.
“Pork is king in Asia. We have done a lot of work in China,” he said.
Different consumer demands have boosted carcase balance, with much of Asia favouring bone in products and offering a high value market for cuts not in demand domestically, such as pigs’ trotters. This then ‘complemented’ the domestic market.
He said there were delegations from China in the UK looking at the beef industry, observing everything from feed to farm to processor, which showcased the importance of high standards and traceability through the whole supply chain.
Tight regulation in the UK presented an opportunity to deliver dairy products with messages around food safety.
Claims such as organic, pasture-raised or hormone and antibiotic free could be used on pack to reassure Asian consumers.
“The key thing is sustainability and reputation of British product. They do not trust their own dairy industry.”
The next generation were key for dairy exports according to AHDB senior export manager dairy Lucy Randolph, with around 7 in 10 Chinese parents buying child-specific yoghurt and milk.
And adapting to consumer tastes was also key, with consumers less keen on sweet products.
“A lot of European brands created for the Chinese market are very specific to those tastes. It is about doing your research.”
Diets were shifting from fresh table potatoes to processed product with Western style products growing in popularity.
“Frozen potatoes are forecasting really strong growth, as are crisps. But taste preferences vary from India to Japan,” Mr Evans said.
“The other thing is food service. The growing affluence in Asia and increase in Western style diets means there are opportunities for French fries.”
He said they had looked at consumer habits, but exporters needed to then market their product to Asian tastes.
“Just producing the same flavours as in the UK may not hit the consumer,” he said.
Cheese and onion crisps were was unlikely to excite Asian markets, but spicy masala flavours were popular in India with seafood appealing in Japan.
More unusual flavours included blueberry in China, pickled plum in Japan and cola in Korea.