Representatives from TA Foods recently attended a week-long trade show in Shanghai, China, dedicated primarily to foods.
The excursion was funded in part by the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, said Terry Popowich with TA Foods, adding they were part of a group of about 30 Canadian companies attending the event. He said the Canadian businesses were grouped in one area of the trade show making it easy to identify which companies were from this country.
Having the Canadian origin of food companies easily identified is important especially from the perspective of Chinese food distributors who were a target audience of the trade show, said Popowich.
“They’re looking for Canadian, and they’ll pay more for quality products,” said Popowich, adding the Chinese see Canadian produced foods as being quality when compared to their domestic sources. “… The Chinese are skeptical of their own food supply.”
That skepticism of Chinese foods and trust in Canada can open markets.
“It’s an opportunity that’s opening up,” said Popowich.
Popowich did note that attending such a show does not mean returning home with a pocket full of orders.
“It takes time. This was more of a meet and greet sort of thing,” he said. “When you get back is when you start sending sample and communicating with them (perspective customers).”
Certainly the potential of trade to China is massive.
“They’re the country that has the growing middle class,” offered Popowich. “And, they have such a large population.” He noted the population of the city of Shanghai alone is basically the equivalent of Canada as a whole.
The show is one TA Foods has attended before as they work to expand sales to China.
“We have a distributor there that we work with,” said Popowich, adding by being at the trade show they are actually offering support for the sales effort of their distributor. “… They’re the ones that do the work of trying to go across the whole country.”
In the case of TA Foods flax oil has been the main product sold into China, but Popowich added “ground flax is starting to do quite well too.”
In the case of ground flax there is a level of education that has to take place as it is a product they are not used to using in foods. However, the high fibre and Omega 3 elements of the product are making inroads, said Popowich. He added their distributor has gone as far as to create recipes for noodle, bread and other products using the ground flax to help buyers in China try the product.
And in terms of market growth, looking to countries such as China are important for TA Foods.
“We export more now than we do use in Canada,” said Popowich, adding the key markets are the United States and China where growth is still possible, again based on population.