MACHI nieuwsbrief

Van idee tot uitvoering: ‘the making of’ MACHI’s nieuwsbrief

Deze werkweek heeft bij mij vooral in het teken gestaan van het ontwikkelen van iets nieuws. En iets dat onverwacht best een beetje spannend blijkt te zijn: mijn nieuwe nieuwsbrief.

Al ver voordat ik met mijn bedrijf begon ontdekte ik dat online zichtbaarheid voor mij succes bracht en ik werkte daarom bewust aan een online ‘personal brand’.

Nu als ondernemer werkt het enorm in mijn voordeel dat ik al veel eerder was begonnen met tweeten over MVO, duurzaamheid en Azië: ik ben voor de mensen die mij volgen herkenbaar en consistent. Maar nu is het ook marketing: hoe positioneer ik mij zakelijk gezien zo goed mogelijk? Lees meer

sustainable organic food

Japan’s organic food market: a bloginterview with Duco Delgorge

Food is, in my view, one of the most tangible ways of including more sustainable choices in your personal daily life. And it is maybe not surprising that amidst increasing concerns about food safety, health and environmental impact the market for organic food is growing – not just in the Netherlands and Europe but worldwide.

Last week, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs published data for 2014 on the export of organic food products from the Netherlands, which has risen 11% from the previous year. Most products find their way to other European countries, but outside of Europe one of the top destinations is Japan (the United States, China and South-Korea are also mentioned as important export markets).

This led me to get in touch with Duco Delgorge, president and CEO of the company MIE PROJECT CO., Ltd., an importer of organic packaged food and who I met on my previous trip to Japan. When we met, I was impressed with his drive and vision on sustainable development and the opportunity he spotted in developing this market.

I asked Duco a few questions on his work, his view on developments in the organic food market in Japan and, lastly, some advice for interested Dutch and European companies.

What do you do?

“In February 2005, I established MIE PROJECT Co., Ltd. in Tokyo. The company is focused on importing quality organic, natural, and fairtrade packaged foods. This year is our 10th anniversary. We import nearly 200 products from 23 suppliers from 10 countries and distribute these to over 1,000 food retailers throughout Japan.

We are still a relatively small company, with just 12 employees, but we grow significantly each year and see excellent long-term potential. Although we initially focused on the premium sector of the retail market, e.g. premium supermarkets, gourmet stores, organic food stores, specialty stores, department stores, cafes, etc., we are gradually seeing a growing interest from larger scale supermarkets. Still, the relatively high price ensuing from importing with high import duties, limits the upside potential.”

What are the main developments in the organic food market in Japan in your view?

“The Japanese organic food market still has a retail value of only about €1 billion, and represents only about 0.5% of the total food market. This compares with about 3% in France and 8% in Denmark. [In the Netherlands the market share for organic food is around 2,5%]. The key reasons for the low penetration of organic food in Japan is the lack of local organic agriculture (again about 0.5% of total agriculture), the relatively low level of awareness of organic food among Japanese consumers, and the lack of availability and high cost of imported organic food.

Still, the picture is progressively brightening for the organic food market. People are increasingly looking for healthier food options, and specifically organic food. Most of this demand is being met by imported organic food. Also, although organic food retailing is still very underdeveloped, progressively more retailers are investing in this concept.”

Is Japan an interesting market for Dutch/European organic food brands, and what would you advise interested companies?

“Japan is certainly an interesting market for Dutch/European organic food brands, but suppliers should very carefully consider if they are ready to take up the challenge.

Here is a starter list of things to consider:

  1. Excellent branding/image
  2. Products should be excellent tasting, very high quality, and have strong unique selling points
  3. Quality control / quality assurance must be of the highest level to avoid risk of claims
  4. Price should be competitive – check impact of freight – need for reefer transport and/or high import duty could result in overly expensive retail price
  5. Ideally minimum 1 year shelf life with monthly production to ensure no shelf-life issues
  6. Commitment to succeed in Japan over the long-term, ensuring the necessary resources are put in place

This is just an indication of what is required. Choose your importing partner carefully, ensuring that they have the resources to succeed and that they can work together well with you. Finally, suppliers need to monitor progress and determine over a suitable period of time what the long-term prognosis is: a) maintain; b) invest for growth; or c) withdraw. Ideally, a good working relationship with the importer will ensure the best result is achieved with no surprises. There is no guarantee of success but there are numerous European organic brands that are achieving increasing success in Japan.”

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Thank you, Duco, for sharing your view on this growing niche market in Japan and your advice on market entry.

For those interested, the following website provides some further reading on this topic: Japan country info on Organic World.

And, if you want to get to know the Japanese (organic) food market more closely, FOODEX 2015 will be held in Japan from March 3-6.

Imagebuilding: China’s public diplomacy

What does the world think about China?

This question was a large part of my Thursday last week. Listening to Ingrid d’Hooghe’s talk about what China is doing to improve its international image, I was reminded of a coffee meeting earlier that day.

At one point during that conversation with a new acquaintance who moved from Hong Kong to the Netherlands a year ago, she mentioned: “Actually, I don’t feel that proud anymore to be Chinese.” It was an interesting comment and I asked her why that was. Unsurprisingly, moving away from your hometown or country means that you gain a different perspective on the place you come from. Seeing from a distance what is happening in China – on topics such as pollution, business, democracy, censorship – made her feel less positive about her country’s future.

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Image: clothes make the man/woman

“Well, this is a bit more formal than I had expected it to be.”

The man next to me – dressed in jeans and jacket – said last week, as we were observing the group of people that we were part of. We had both just walked in to a lunch networking event, and were surrounded by – mostly – (older) men in suit and tie. I was not surprised: I knew the organization, the event was hosted in the board room of an international bank and I had dressed accordingly – adding a little of my own style to business formality.
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Kan een bedrijf met onduurzame producten verantwoord ondernemen?

Afgelopen vrijdag ging mijn Twitter-timeline flink los op het artikel over algemeen directeur van Shell, Ben van Beurden, in de Volkskrant. Het artikel ging in op de uitspraken van Van Beurden bij de presentatie van de jaarcijfers van Shell de dag daarvoor. Bij die presentatie gaf hij toe dat het inderdaad ‘bijzonder moeilijk’ zal zijn om onder de cruciale 2C-grens voor opwarming van de aarde te blijven. Maar hij betoogde ook dat de energiebehoefte wereldwijd zal blijven groeien en dat het onmogelijk zal zijn om met een aanzienlijk percentage (meer dan 20%) in die stijgende vraag te voorzien met duurzame energiebronnen. Dat zou bijvoorbeeld opkomende economieën beletten in hun ontwikkeling.

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