ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS reconnects Asia to the world
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS 2021 succeeded in reconnecting Asia to the world when it took place online on 28-29 September.
More than 1,700 attendees from 86 different countries joined Asia’s premier annual fresh produce conference as it went live and online to showcase the huge market opportunities across the region and to start the countdown to ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA 2022.
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS was hosted live from Fruitnet’s offices in Melbourne and London over two tracks and two days to enable every fresh produce business to take part easily and in their own time zone. The event’s easy-to-use online platform enabled delegates to network and interact with speakers, sponsors and attendees in real time. All the sessions were also made available to view on-demand for registered delegates.
The winners of the 2021 ASIA FRUIT AWARDS were announced at ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS. Leading Chinese group Joy Wing Mau, Indian fruit distributor Suri Agro Fresh, Singaporean retailer NTUC FairPrice, and the Costa JV in China clinched the prestigious accolades, which are presented by ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA and ASIAFRUIT MAGAZINE.
ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA: starting the countdown
ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA is heading back to Hong Kong on 7-9 September 2022, and ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS kicked off by starting the countdown to the trade show’s return. ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA’s new executive director, David Axiotis, joined Fruitnet’s Chris White to explain plans for the 2022 event, which are already well under way. Based in Shanghai, Axiotis comes with more than a decade of experience in the trade show industry and a dedicated China team to bolster ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA’s existing operations team in Bangkok.
“The good news is we’re now busy planning and preparing for the return of ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA next September,” said Axiotis. “We’re working with all our partners to put on a really great show for the fresh produce business in 2022.”
High-profile speakers highlight key trends
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS delivered its biggest-ever programme, with more than 60 expert speakers from across the global fresh produce industry providing over 16 hours of high-quality content and insights.
A keynote panel discussion looked at the longer-term impacts of Covid-19 on Asia’s fresh produce business. Dan Mathieson, chief executive of Zespri International, Jan Doldersum, manager of chain and retail for Rijk Zwaan, and George Liu, founder of Frutacloud, shared their views on the trends of the past eighteen months that look set to last.
Mathieson observed significant shifts in consumer behaviour, including an increased focus on health, nutrition and immunity, with fresh fruit sales reaping the benefits. Snacking has also increased as consumers eat more at home.
“The mainstay fruits of bananas, melons and apples have done well with modest growth, but there has been a real acceleration for berries, avocados and kiwifruit, driven by that focus on health and nutrition,” said Mathieson.
“We’ve seen a massive shift in terms of the way that consumers buy…certainly consumers around the world and all of our key markets have become much more used to buying fresh produce online.”
Doldersum noted the trend of home cooking has been a positive for vegetables like aubergines, broccoli and cauliflower. Additionally, there is an increasing demand for local produce, with concerns about sustainability and traceability playing a key role in driving this trend.
Providing an insight into China, Liu said e-commerce sales have accelerated, with the majority of Frutacloud products pre-packed for delivery. Consumers are also increasingly demanding local fruit as domestic production evolves.
“Due to the global supply chain disruption, I think the domestic product in China has picked up a lot of steam and there are people focusing more on domestic production,” said Liu.
“China has really grown alive in terms of protecting IP, in terms of support from the local government, in terms of very industrialised, very professional growing.”
Retail and consumption shifts
Shifts in consumer behaviour and the retail landscape across Asia were further explored during the opening sessions on Day Two at ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS (29 September). Winstone Chee, director of Altitude Fresh, said Covid-19 had upended long-standing consumer habits in China, and that the health crisis had placed “extra pressure on traditional wet markets”.
While online retail channels gained impetus during the pandemic, Chee said one long-standing trend remained intact. “Impulse buying and seasonality rarely diminished,” he noted, adding that “freshness still outranks convenience for many shoppers in China”.
Now, retailers face the challenge of enticing consumers back into brick-and-mortar stores, with online promotions and in-store activations two of the tools at their disposal. “The position of product and product category is important to the retailer. Once the customer is through the door, the retailer can really wow them,” Chee highlighted.
“Having said that, online remains a very important aspect of overall growth. What once were trends are now part of everyday life, and suppliers need to do the work upfront to really understand the various e-commerce channels.”
Digital marketing with a difference
Digital marketing also came into focus at ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS, with leading fruit brands Zespri and Rockit Global discussing some of their innovative work to stand out in the crowded digital space.
“A big part of what we’ve done [in Asia] is to differentiate ourselves in the fresh produce category by using social media platforms in a way that surprises people, and where it makes them sit up and take notice,” said Rockit Global’s general manager of global marketing, Julian Smith.
Zespri’s marketing director for Greater China, Ng Kok Hwee, said the move to digital was vital for the company, especially in the post-Covid world.
“We identified two key areas we needed to focus on in order to drive effectiveness and efficiency in our investment,” explained Ng. “The first was precision targeting to better reach our audience with a laser-like focus. The second was increasing conversion through content, focusing on strengthening the link from content to purchase.”
Capitalising on consumption opportunities
Asia’s fresh produce consumption continues to grow at healthy rates, and a headline session on Day Two looked at how marketers can do more to seize the opportunities. Case studies provided inspiration on how to capitalise on new eating occasions and to attract consumers to new products and varieties.
Nina Ma of Syngenta China discussed the group’s tie-up with Dole to launch its Yoom and Nebula tomato varieties in China, and its partnership with Disney to release Disney-branded tomato offerings. Covid-19 has made consumers pay more attention to the issue of food safety in China, according to Ma, who said high-end fruit and vegetables are enjoying stronger demand as they are regarded as safer.
Vachamon Food CEO, Wipavee Watcharakorn, discussed the Thai company’s Fruit First campaign to change eating habits and highlight the health benefits of fruit consumption. Washington Apple Commission’s director of international marketing Rebecca Lyons outlined its work to grow apple consumption in South-East Asia, while PromPeru executive president Amora Carbajal explained how the agency is using culinary inspiration and superfood status to incorporate avocados into diets in Asia.
Multiple categories, multiple markets
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS explored the opportunities across multiple categories and markets in Asia. Spotlights on bananas, stonefruit, apples, citrus and tropical fruit heard from industry leaders in each category on the latest shifts in consumption and trade.
Sustainability was also a headline theme, and it’s an issue that’s coming into sharper focus in Asia. Dole Sunshine Company has been making a stand on sustainability with its Dole Promise. President of Dole Sunshine’s Fresh Produce Group, Christian Wiegele, and head of Dole Ventures, Barbara Guerpillon, explained how the company was “moving the needle” on issues such as access to nutritional food, food waste, plastic packaging and carbon emissions.
Vietnam also came under the spotlight as one of Asia’s most exciting emerging markets for premium produce. An expert panel discussed Vietnam’s quality demands for imported fruits and the role of its evolving modern retail channels in creating avenues for marketers.
A number of sessions explored the potential to develop production of high value crops closer to consumers in Asia. Jupiter Marketing chief executive Mark Tweddle, and Peter McPherson, head of berry international for Costa Group, discussed some of the keys to success for global breeders and marketers in establishing production in countries such as India and China respectively.
Covered cropping systems are gaining ground in Asia, and Richard Vollebregt, president of Cravo, and Kees Rijnhout of Jaguar The Fresh Company, outlined some ground-breaking developments with retractable roof growing systems and glasshouse operations respectively.
Practical takeaways at BUSINESS FORUM
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS delegates were able to enjoy a series of specialist expert talks at ASIAFRUIT BUSINESS FORUM, which offered practical insights and solutions to help them grow their business.
‘Fresh Tech’ was the theme for Day One at ASIAFRUIT BUSINESS FORUM, with talks from industry experts on everything from how to use data more effectively to packhouse automation and modified atmosphere shipping.
Day Two’s talks focused on ‘Retail & Consumers’, with health messaging, e-commerce, retail training and sustainable packaging among the topics under the spotlight.
ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS was free to attend this year, and in addition to the live and on-demand content, delegates enjoyed free access to digital copies of ASIAFRUIT MAGAZINE’s bumper event issue and the 2021 edition of the ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS STATISTICS HANDBOOK.
Murray McCallum, chief executive, Freshmax Group
“Whilst we once again missed the personal interaction with suppliers and customers that ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA and ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS allow, it was great to be able to tune into ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS online and listen in to the topical and very enlightening sessions. We can’t wait to be back in person in 2022.”
Kevin Au Yeung, Asia market manager, RK Growers
“The ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS platform was really well run and easy to use. If you missed any sessions, the best part is you could always go back later to watch them on-demand. A wide range of topics was discussed throughout the two-day conference and the speakers were well-respected industry experts. They were there on the platform ready to share their perspectives and answer any questions the audience might have in real time. This interaction was really valuable, considering face-to-face meetings in Asia were not possible.”
Wipavee Watcharakorn, chief executive, Vachamon Food
“It was great to be part of the event and to share my insights and perspective. The speakers offered many inspiring ideas on how to grow our industry, and the feedback and audience interaction were really strong. I was delighted to see so many people share the same belief and passion about the big opportunities for our business.”
Mano Babiolakis, international business manager, Mountain Blue Orchards
“The diversity of speakers and topics, and the features of the platform, made attending ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS online very worthwhile. Well done to the organisers for bringing this altogether. We’re looking forward to attending back in person next year.”
Sumit Saran, director, SS Associates
“The sessions were engaging and very informative. The dynamics of the fruit business are changing drastically in the post-pandemic world, and ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS managed to neatly encapsulate the variables for all stakeholders. Kudos to the organisers for putting together such a panel of experts in such difficult times. We look forward to being together again in 2022.”
The next edition of ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA returns to Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo on 7-9 September 2022, and ASIAFRUIT CONGRESS takes place on 6 September 2022. Save the dates now.