China's shifting emphasis on consumption and lifting the standard of living for its 1.4 billion inhabitants could be a golden opportunity for New Zealand companies, says a visiting trade delegation.
The Hong Kong food and related technologies delegation is in Auckland today meeting with New Zealand food and beverage firms.
Kiwi products are highly regarded in China for their quality but there is a 'gap in the market' with so few New Zealand goods making it onto Chinese shop shelves, says Fred Lam, the Executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
Lam is leading a delegation of 16 Hong Kong companies who are looking to source more products and to identify collaborative opportunities from New Zealand.
"We feel that New Zealand products are underrepresented in Hong Kong and the Chinese market, so we see an opportunity here.
"Also we want to work together to see if we can market and distribute these products in the mainland," Lam said.
According to Statistics New Zealand, Hong Kong is our ninth largest trading partner, with annual exports topping $1 billion.
Last year, China over took Australia as New Zealand's biggest export market as Chinese demand for our dairy products and red meat soared.
"Chinese consumers want to uplift their living standards by spending their money on the right products especially when it comes to what they put in their mouths and their kids' mouths"
But it's not enough just to have products ready to sell. Smaller kiwi firms often find it frustrating trying to tap into China alone, Lam says.
"You mustn't see China as one single market, it's more like thirty different markets with different tastes and requirements. So for any new-comer to that market if you don't understand it, it can be quite daunting."
Lam says, many smaller companies just don't have the resources to tap into foreign markets and this is why collaborating with Hong Kong companies can act as a bridge into mainland China.
"Our companies have not only invested in these markets for thirty years, but they have also built the necessary connections, contacts and know-how to manoeuvre around the very complicated policies and systems in China," he said.
The food and beverage, wine, and health foods industries in New Zealand are of particular interest for the visiting Hong Kong delegation.
For delegate member Dickson Lam, this is his second visit to Auckland in search of trade possibilities. Tin Hung (HK) limited, the company he manages, is a Fonterra distributor and raw foods trading business based in Hong Kong, with offices in the Chinese mainland.
On his "shopping list" are products such as butter, cheese and beef.
"These are my top three on my list, we already have a buyer for these," said Dickson Lam.
"In recent years, from New Zealand there's some up and coming companies, small firms that are doing some manufacturing, I find they are quite good but the quantity is not there yet, but everything begin from small," he said.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council was set up in 1996 and aims to connect the world's small and medium-sized enterprises and to promote trade in goods and services.
Fred Lam's advice for New Zealand companies wanting to enter the Chinese market:
• Focus on quality - "New Zealand companies cannot compete on price"
• Visit Hong Kong and meet with companies
• Find the right partner
• Be patient "Even if you fail the first time, you need to have a strong faith in your product, it just means you haven't found the right way into the market yet"