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Having recently returned home to New Zealand, I've been getting a fresh perspective about what this country offers the world.

My impressions are backed up by the calibre of this year's awards finalists, which collectively generate sales of about $1 billion annually.

Big and small, they have all done their homework on niches to target.

Yacht Lifeline is leveraging our marine reputation by offering bespoke, remote emergency medical services for luxury vessels.

Mount Riley Wines is competing in a big industry, so it uses marketing and sales strategies that target customers who desire emotional connections to its wine.

Manuka Health's honey products are established as functional foods and dietary supplements. It's now aiming to conquer a broader medical market.

Film production business The Sweet Shop backed New Zealand's creative talent and set out to be global from day one. Its strategy involved establishing offices in mature markets, then emerging ones.

Aircraft interior design engineering firm Altitude has targeted two niches with promising results - the owners of VIP executive jets and premium airlines.

Our larger exporters are finding new ways to build on specialty areas.

Natural health brand Comvita is looking at how to control its route to market and get closer to its customers.

Cognition Education started advising the Gulf States' education sector and has grown international sales five-fold in the past four years.

Douglas Pharmaceuticals wins business against multibillion-dollar competitors by focusing on low-volume, high-value, and "hard to do" medicines and supplements.

These are just eight of the 25 finalists and show there is no shortage of talent and diversity.

We need to build on their successes so that New Zealand's star shines brightly overseas and the impacts are multiplied across our economy.

Challenging macro conditions mean these are tough times for exporters. But what we see among these finalists is a passion and energy to design, to innovate and to get on with the job.

Peter Chrisp is chief executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
www.nzte.govt.nz/awards