Oregon Ag products debut in Hong Kong

Three week supermarket promotion highlights Oregon products
By Oregon Department of Agriculture,

Fresh blueberries, Dungeness crab, and a variety of wines from Oregon and Washington enjoyed three weeks in the spotlight this summer as part of a targeted in-store promotion at one of Hong Kong’s largest retail grocery chains. While the buying power of seven million consumers is important to Pacific Northwest agricultural exports, Hong Kong’s status as a gateway to the rest of China makes it even more strategic.

“With the amount of wealth and growth now taking place on the mainland, Hong Kong is a very important market for us,” says Patrick Mayer, international trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “It’s what I call a global crossroads market because of the influence, power, and economy of Hong Kong. Not only does it affect China and the rest of Asia, it really sits on a world stage.”

With that in mind, ODA and the Washington State Department of Agriculture organized the three-week July promotion in Hong Kong’s Park n’ Shop stores- a chain of about 250 stores- and recruited 15 Pacific Northwest companies to participate. In addition to the wine, crab, and blueberries, products included snack foods, cereal products, and specialty foods. The two states complemented each other well and successfully reinforced the region’s reputation for high quality, good tasting products.

“We haven’t really targeted Hong Kong as one of our key markets before even though we have displayed products there in the past,” says Mayer. “This foray into Park n’ Shop focuses on retail products. The wine, blueberries, and Dungeness crab are retail products with quality characteristics that provide some great opportunities for us in that part of the world.”

The early reports indicate that the promotion was very successful. Sales data is not available and it often takes time before the true impact of a promotion is really felt. But retail buyers and the consumers that visited the Park n’ Shop promotion came away impressed. Much of the value of this kind of promotion has to do with introducing Oregon and Washington to consumers.

“There is a strong public relations component to this,” says Mayer. “Getting the Oregon name out there in front of consumers- even if it’s just a few items like wine, blueberries, and Dungeness crab- helps raise Oregon’s profile.”

News media in Hong Kong made sure the Park n’ Shop promotion of Pacific Northwest products came with a big splash. Extensive press coverage of the key Oregon products, combined with direct mail materials to consumers, garnered a great deal of attention. Once the consumer came to the store, product sampling and in-store cooking demonstrations featuring the products created an even bigger buzz.

Of all the featured products, Oregon wine may have received the best reception.

“The export market for Oregon wine continues to grow, and to have Park n’ Shop step up and feature our products is exciting,” says Doyle Hinman, Export Director for Henry Estate Winery and owner of Five H Wines of Eugene. “Hong Kong is a very important market for us. I feel strongly about the opportunities that afford Oregon wines in the Asian market. Hong Kong is a gateway to China. We are using that gateway right now. Henry Estate and Five H have been positioning its wines in Shanghai, and that effort is coming from our presence in Hong Kong. Any place we can open up more markets is a boon to Oregon’s wine industry.”

In addition to Henry Estate and Five H, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Evergreen Vineyards were on display in the Park n’ Shop stores.

Hong Kong abolished all import duty and taxes on wine in 2008, making it an even more desirable export market for Pacific Northwest wine. In May, as part of a Governor’s trade mission to Asia, ODA Director Katy Coba signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hong Kong government to promote the sale of Oregon and Washington wines into and through the Hong Kong market. Although wine sales channels in Hong Kong have been established for years, the MOU encourages even more promotional activities with hopes it will lead to greater opportunities for additional Pacific Northwest agricultural products.

“Currently, most of the Dungeness crab in Hong Kong arrives via British Columbia,” says Nick Furman, administrator of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “We want to pursue a direct link from Oregon to Hong Kong with product that has the Oregon identity. Hong Kong is a first class venue for our type of product.”

Last fall, ODA Director Coba and Dan Newhouse, her counterpart from Washington, led a joint trade mission to Asia that included a stop in Hong Kong. The visit led to discussions with an executive chef for Park n’ Shop, who already had an affinity for Pacific Northwest foods.

“He wanted to get products from Oregon and Washington into the store,” says Amanda Welker, another ODA international trade manager who helped organize the promotion. “We asked companies if they were interested, and we were able to get a good mix of products featured in these higher end stores. There will be more opportunities to do some targeted promotions in the near future.”

Those opportunities are likely to once again feature a partnership between Oregon and Washington.

“There is value in taking a regional approach,” says Welker. “You will see more of an effort to work together in these markets. In some cases, we grow the same commodities and in other cases, we produce complementary items. Quite often, we can do more together for producers and companies in our two states than we can do alone.”

ODA’s role in these kinds of promotions is primarily being a matchmaker- bringing buyer and seller together. With the possibility of penetrating the fast growing southern Chinese export market, the companies that brought product to Park n’ Shop are hoping it can be a match made in heaven.

For more information, contact Patrick Mayer or Amanda Welker at (503) 872-6600.

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