Australian food and agribusinesses are boosting exports to Japan by opening overseas premises that directly serve Japanese customers. What’s more, the new trend is taking root in Japan’s culinary heartland – Kansai.
Setting up an office in-market, rather than only using a distributor or importer, means businesses can build direct relationships with consumers, which is particularly critical in Japan.
‘Japanese consumers are very discerning and in Japan it is even more important to be available and responsive to your customer and their needs,’ says David Lawson, Senior Trade Commissioner, Austrade Japan.
‘Establishing a presence in the market allows you to get direct and timely feedback from your customers. In turn, customer loyalty is built if you respond well to negative feedback and you can maximise the positives if you’re close enough to observe the trends.’
South Australian oyster-farming specialists, SEAPA, was one of the first Australian companies to set up an office in Japan. With its innovative basket meshes for growing oysters, SEAPA has revolutionised Australia’s domestic oyster-growing industry.
Over the past five years, SEAPA’s products have also helped revitalise Japan’s oyster industry after much of it was devastated in the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami. Buoyed by success, the company opened an office in Osaka in early 2018, and is helping the local industry regain market share.
Patties Foods is another Australian company that is growing organically in Japan. Owners of Australia’s iconic Four ‘N Twenty Pies brand, the company initially used an importer in Kobe to make steady inroads into hospitality spots at sports stadiums across the country.
As the Rugby World Cup loomed – along with thousands of international fans – Patties Foods opened its own office in Kobe in March 2019. The office will help Patties Foods grow brand allegiance, and position itself for future sporting occasions, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
With Australia’s beef exports worth A$8 billion in 2017–18, Japan is a natural target market for Australian farmers. Benefiting from Australia’s high agricultural standards, Victoria-based JR Exports has built two top-end brands in Japan, Premium Natural Beef and Australian Wagyu Beef.
To expand, the company partnered with a dedicated importer, Australian Produce. In 2016, a joint initiative between JR Exports and a Japanese partner lead to the establishment of an Australian Produce office in Osaka, enabling JR Exports to build its brands from a physical presence.
Australian-style coffee is also making an appearance on the streets of Osaka. Coffee connoisseur and entrepreneur, Colin Steen, recently established Melbourne Coffee. Importing the beans and the coffee machine, Melbourne Coffee boasts a traditional Australian-style cafe menu including avocado salad on bagels and gourmet sliders of Australian beef. The cafe has become a hotspot for locals who want to chat with Steen about Australia, and what it has to offer young travellers and students.