A ground-breaking marketing strategy devised to promote the Hawke's Bay wine industry in the expanding Chinese market has been given the funding green light by the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust.
"We've got it," was the delighted response from Hawke's Bay Winegrowers executive officer James Medina when the news came through.
The grant, along with input from the wineries involved, will see about $500,000 go into China-market strategies over a three-year period. Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule was equally delighted as it brought to fruition steps he initiated last year when he invited an industry specialist out from China to advise the industry how to go about tapping the burgeoning market.
"It is huge for us.
"We have been working hard on this and now we are starting to get runs on the board.
"Over the past five years we've seen an explosion of opportunities in China - it is going very well because they like our products there."
The Agricultural and Marketing Research Development Trust (AGMARDT) invests about $2.7 million annually into developing innovations, research and programmes which make a positive contribution to the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors. It has injected about $60 million funding into the various sectors since 1987.
He said 17 Hawke's Bay wineries had initially signed up to be a part of a three- to five-year China marketing programme focusing on tasting and education events, public relations and social media marketing.
The funding approval was significant as the Hawke's Bay wine industry was going up against international players like France, Spain, Australia and Chile who were also targeting the China market. It was also ground-breaking, Mr Medina said.
"We have a bunch of wineries all competing for the domestic market who can still get together and collaborate to compete in the China market."
He said that approach was "a great lesson" for other industries. The marketing strategies had gained the thumbs-up from winegrowers chairman Nicholas Buck who said the China marketing programme would be of a substantially greater scale than anything the region's wine industry had previously attempted.
Annual wine exports to China were now boosting the national economy to the tune of more than $25 million.