4 Reasons You Should Be Marketing Your Brand in Asia - Now!

This past April I had the eye-opening opportunity to travel with 10 delegates from the Oregon & Idaho Dairy Trade Mission to Singapore (Singapore), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to see first-hand the astounding trends in the Asian food and beverage consumer markets.

Highlights from this trade mission include our attendance at FoodAsia2016, the 20th International Exhibition of Food and Drinks, in Singapore. This is the largest food and beverage trade show in Asia and the 2nd largest show of its type on earth. In addition, we met with distributors and government representatives, visited an array of retail stores from local corner markets to massive hypermarkets, and toured ports and distribution centers in all three countries. 

What I discovered was a confluence of trends and opportunity that I had not seen since attending my first Natural Products Expo West Trade Show in Anaheim in 1995. If anything, this show is not only far larger; the economic opportunity for North American brands is unbelievable and undeniable.

For those companies that offer healthier food, beverage or wellness alternatives, now is the time to act on marketing in Asia. Here are just four compelling reasons to consider:

  1. In North America we trust. North American brands are generally viewed as very trustworthy. Melamine additives in baby formula and other food scares have rocked the foundation of Asian consumption. As a result, Asian consumers are hungry for transparency, organic and other third-party certifications, and products with stellar reputations. Distributors are targeting North American products to fill this demand. But, the distributor’s focus is on getting products from Point A to Point B, not on educating consumers, which leads to my next point.
  2. You may already be “Big in Japan. Like celebrities, your brand may already be in Asia but experiencing very different marketing techniques than it does back home. Most North American brands are exporting by default, by accident, rather than strategically marketing their products. Distributors buy and transport the container, and from there companies often have no idea where the container goes, where the product sits on the shelf, where it is sold and for how much, who is buying it and who is competing for their attention. No one, seriously no one, is spending time educating the consumer about healthier options and the brands that offer them. Through borderless communication (look for a future post on this subject) provided by the advent of smart phones everywhere, you can change this. Read #s 3 and 4 to see why you should not wait to start.
  3. Megatrends are aligned. A global trend toward better health + 640 million consumers in the Association of SE Asian Nations (ASEAN) alone + half the world’s population within a 5-hour flight from Hong Kong + rapidly increasing incomes = explosive growth. This is not to mention the potential impact of the pending Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, which many believe would make it easier, and far less expensive, for American entrepreneurs and companies to export to Asia and directly reach 11% of the world population, 25% of world trade and 36% of the world’s GDP.
  4. The government is eager to help you. U.S. state, regional and federal governments are offering immense resources for U.S. brands looking to promote themselves abroad. They’ll set up business appointments for you, help you ready your trade show booth, hire interpreters, bring people into your exhibits to sample your products, and more. They’re even matching your marketing dollars to promote your brand in these markets. Yes, that means free advertising money for you!

In 1995, my business partner and I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center for the Natural Products Expo West with no clue what we’d discover behind those doors. It turns out we were witnessing the birth of a megatrend in healthier eating in North America, and the start of our 22-year history helping health-focused brands like Bob’s Red Mill become household names.

When I walked into FoodAsia2016 in Singapore I felt like I was back in Anaheim in 1995, only this market, unlike the U.S., will not take 40 years to understand that the food pyramid was, for all that time, upside down.

The change toward healthier eating is happening in Asia far faster than it did here in a world where global obesity rates are growing as quickly as they did in America. The good news is that Asian consumers are discovering this now, and you and your brand have the opportunity to do something about it – now!