Natural Products Asia Show and Perspectives from Asia

by Bill Sipper, Cascadia Consulting Group, LLC

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In December, I traveled to Asia where I attended a trade show called “Natural Products Asia” (www.naturalproductsasia.com). In addition, I had the opportunity to tour various supermarkets and convenience stores in Honk Kong, Mainland China, and Thailand.

The show, only in its third year, was very successful for the 200+ exhibitors as distributors, brokers, and retailers flocked to see new items. 5200 buyers in total attended from over 41 countries. Natural Products Asia is produced by New Hope Natural Media, the producers of Natural Products Expo East, Natural Products Expo West, Natural Products Expo Europe, and Natural Products Expo Japan.

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The natural food and beverage channel is still an emerging category in Asia, but the numbers are rapidly increasing each and every year. Beverage manufacturers in general, both Asian and American, have not fully leveraged the natural foods channel and the demand for natural products in Asia.

The show itself, as well as the supermarkets and convenience stores in the various countries, featured several unique and interesting items.

Noni juice certainly appears to be a growing category in Asia with 4 or 5 trade show booths dedicated to educating people about the tropical fruit that grows in the Pacific Islands all year round. One Noni marketer was showing the television commercials they broadcast in India, showing the size and the potential size of the category. According to the various marketers, Noni juice can help support the immune system and help cells more readily absorb nutrients. Other benefits may include increased mental clarity and attention span, as well as greater physical performance levels.

Soy is obviously a large and growing category in Asia with various manufacturers touting new and unique soy varieties including High Calcium, Low Sugar, Chocolate, Cappuccino and Malt varieties.

Fruit juices and teas are prevalent with standard flavors like Green and Oolong Teas with and without sugar. Snapple also has a nice presence in Asia. More interesting was the very unique flavors being marketed including beverages like Pure Cane Sugar Juice, Chrysanthemum Tea, Winter Melon Drink, Mango Drink, Lychee Juice (with and without Jelly), Rose Bandung Drink (with and without Jelly), Asam Jawa Drink, more delicate tasting teas featuring light infusions of Apple, Peach, and Lemon (much lighter than what we are used to in the US).

Dynamic Health labs was promoting their varied healthy drink lines including Black Cherry, Cranberry, Mangosteen and Pomegranate varieties, as well as Gogi juice which they say is naturally high in minerals like Zinc, Calcium, Germanium, Selenium, Phosphorus, Copper and Iron and Amino Acids like Isoleucine and Methione as well as naturally occurring Anti Oxidants. They also showed two other unique beverages called “Simply Digestion 2000 Plus” and “Sure Sight”.

Overall, it was somewhat surprising to find that there is no “neutriceutical” beverage category outside of Japan. The overall delivery vehicle for herbs, supplements, and minerals is still in the form of capsules and tablets. There is a tremendous opportunity for US beverage marketers as long as they are aggressive and understand the nuances of the markets.

Many of the Asian markets are really ripe for US beverages. The sheer square footage available in both convenience stores and supermarkets dedicated to beverages is two to three times the size of the same sections in typical US convenience stores and supermarkets. They varieties were truly overwhelming reminding me of a scene in an old Robin Williams movie called “Moscow on the Hudson”. Williams’ character has never been outside of the old Soviet Union and is used to waiting on day-long lines for simple items like toilet paper and bread. Upon defecting to the United States, William’s character passes out after seeing the variety of products in a US Grocery store.

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Some buyers thought the innovation and variety in both products and packaging was due to the lack of distribution and manufacturing consolidation like we have seen in the US during the past 5 or so years. Instead of two or three major companies competing like we have in the US, 5-7 major companies are fighting for share of the Asian stomach. In turn, these competitors have to continually come up with new ideas, new flavors, or new packaging to increase their market share.

The first step for beverage manufacturers is to exhibit at a trade show. All in all the shows are not that expensive as pre-formed booths are provided. Manufacturers need to supply art work or a banner if they wish to decorate their booth, rent a refrigerator, send over product, and man the booth for 2-3 days. When you add it all up, it is not much more expensive than exhibiting at a US trade show if you know what you are doing. The investment, in time and money, is worthwhile to see if retailers and distributors show an interest in your product. Exhibiting at an Asian trade show will also help you better understand the Asian markets and how business is conducted.

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For more information about exporting your beverage to Asia feel free to contact the country’s US Consulate General Office or Cascadia Consulting Group.

About the Author
@@img5 Bill Sipper is a Senior Partner at Ramsey, New Jersey based Cascadia Consulting Group LLC. He has been featured as a food and beverage expert on several episodes of The TV Food Network and a PBS documentary entitled Water Wars. He has been quoted by the various trade and consumer magazines including The New York Times, Barrons, Brandweek, Fast Company, Beverage Spectrum, Beverage Industry, Beverage World, Beverage Aisle, Beverage and Food Dynamics, Natural Foods Merchandiser, and Playboy. He was a recent guest speaker at Columbia University School of Business.

Cascadia Consulting Group offers consulting service in 7 primary areas: General Management, Sales and Distribution, Sales Training and Development, Marketing (Advertising, Public Relations, Brand Positioning, Website Development, Consumer Research, etc.), Finance, Operations and Logistics, and Human Resources. Cascadia services Fortune 500 companies, medium size firms, as well as startups and small companies. Their strategies are created in the board room but implemented at street level. For more information log onto www.cascadiaconsultinggroup.com or contact Bill Sipper at bsipper@cascadiaconsultinggroup.com or at 201.760.9019.