Pacific products gain valuable exposure

Chefs check out bottled sea grapes at the Pacific Seaweeds booth.

30 September 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Fiji ??New and exciting products from 11 Pacific enterprises were on show during Australia?s largest annual food industry trade expo ? the Fine Food show. Around 1000 exhibitors converged at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 15 to 18 September 2014 for the event, which attracted over 20,000 visitors from 50 countries.

The European Union and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) through the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project, in collaboration with the Pacific Island Trade & Invest office in Sydney, coordinated and managed the participation of the Pacific enterprises at this year?s Fine Food show.

Two such enterprises, Pacific Seaweeds from Fiji and Vanuatu Direct from Vanuatu, made their debuts at the show. Both enterprises are part of the IACT project, which is a European Union-funded initiative implemented by SPC. This project works with private sector enterprises in strengthening the export capacity of Pacific Island countries in the agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and livestock sectors.

For Pacific Seaweeds, the trade show was a great opportunity to introduce its new product ? sea grapes (Caulerpa racemosa) ? to the international market. This family-owned business works with island communities in Fiji to sustainably harvest seaweed through traditional methods to produce the finest hand-picked edible seaweeds.

Company Director Shamron Pickering said that the response to her product was very positive, with over 500 visitors and 100 new business contacts established at the event. The sea grapes attracted a lot of attention at the show, and were even featured on the Fine Food show website.

She added that this type of seaweed had not been seen at the show before, and many of the chefs present were very excited to try it. In the next couple of months, Shamron will be sending product samples to potential distributors in Australia.

Vanuatu Direct achieved similar success. The company?s, Vanu?kai honey and Natur?kai healthy bites (or Simboro in Bislama), were well received at the exhibition. The company was able to establish around 50 new business leads.

Manager Cornelia Wyllie said that the company?s honey and traditional tribal food products are pure and have a high nutritional content.

She said that participating at the trade show not only helped boost her confidence but also helped her gain valuable information on business and product development, brand awareness as well as marketing.

Prior to the trade show, Pacific Seaweeds and Vanuatu Direct were both provided with technical and marketing assistance by the IACT team to ensure that their products meet the Australian food standards.

IACT project Team Leader Samu Turagacati said that the Fine Food show was a valuable opportunity for small and medium enterprises looking to export.

‘The remoteness of some of our Pacific enterprises puts them in a challenging position when it comes to gaining access to larger offshore markets for their products. The trade show provided a platform for these enterprises to meet with buyers who they otherwise may not be able to meet, foster business relationships, and secure market leads for their products,’ he added.

Turagacati is positive that the participation of Pacific enterprises at international trade shows such as Fine Food will help promote and identify potential new markets for value-added products from the Pacific Islands.

Earlier this year, the IACT project provided support to four Pacific enterprises from Timor-Leste, Samoa and Fiji to exhibit at Trade Pasifika, a regional trade show held in Fiji. The IACT project is also taking enterprises to the SIAL Food Fair in Paris, France in October to secure distributors in European markets.