SAFCOL, the South Australia Fishing Co-operative, was originally established in 1945 as a co-operative for fishermen to sell their catch. The company is now a privately owned commercial entity. It is an industry leader in responsible fishing and now one of the world’s major suppliers of fresh, packaged and frozen seafood.
The company has branched out into contract manufacturing for other brands and it’s not afraid to look across the seas for opportunities. The company exports to several markets around the world including Asia. To progress their expansion into Asia, Andrew attended the ANZ Opportunity Asia Delegation program at the end of 2018.
“Our business in Australia and the Middle East is growing. However, in Asia our export business has been historically small, even though it is on our doorstep. So it was a great opportunity for me to go up there and learn as the head of the company, because if I’m not aware of the market on the ground, how can I expect anyone else to know within the organisation.”
Experience on the ground
The ANZ Opportunity Asia Delegation program aims to help businesses grow their knowledge and network internationally. Andrew explains the importance of having a solid understanding of the Asian market when looking to do business in the area.
“All of the businesses that attended the ANZ Delegation were at different stages of their export journey.
The main reason for us to join was to improve our understanding, so then we can go and make proper inroads into the China market in a planned and methodical way, and the same applies for Singapore.”
International brands that target the China market often start in selected main cities, however this can be challenging if distributors already have significant competition in those markets.
“A lot of companies think they are going to go over and conquer the Shanghai and Beijing markets, but they don’t realise that every other brand from around the world is doing the same thing. Being aware of the other cities and growth areas of China has been really valuable, and we look for distributors now who can tap into that.”
As part of the delegation program, Andrew attended a cultural awareness training workshop to learn about key aspects of building relationships, negotiation, communications and doing business in China and the ASEAN region.
“The session was excellent. It explained a lot about how people in Asia think and respond to requests we make. I sent some of the insights back to my sales team in Australia, and we were able to make immediate progress with a distributor in China that had been going nowhere for a year.”
SAFCOL is a major contract manufacturer for a wide range of products including pet food, soups, liquid stocks and baby food brands in Australia, many of which are exported.
“We are using our capabilities for high quality manufacturing and we're now setting up distribution options for our own brand and looking to put that into the market in China later this year. The ANZ delegation gave us some structure and outlines on how to go about it, and my team is following up on that.”
“Building partnerships on the ground in China is essential. Australia has this clean and green image, Canada and Norway and other places in Europe have that too, and they all want a piece of the China market. So you have to do more, get up to the market, spend time with distributors and build your brand.”
“Many companies think they can just sell one can of their product to everyone in the country and get rich, but it doesn’t work that way. There is a danger for exporters to focus only on the China market, and if a regulation changes quickly, then there are risks there. But if we can make some progress in other parts of Asia, along with China, it will definitely add value to our business."