Tonga’s world-class vanilla producer is confident sales in Japan will continue to grow after a recent visit to the country.
The Heilala Vanilla sales team visited department stores and cafes in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe that stock the product range, along with two factories where Heilala Vanilla is used in the manufacture of over 160,000 biscuits per day.
Jennifer Boggiss, Heilala Vanilla director, says the trip provided a valuable insight on ways to boost sales in this “complex and demanding” market. “The Japanese market is the most sophisticated we have experienced to date, in terms of product and the requirements for packaging. The quality along with food safety documentation is the highest we have encountered in any of the countries we export to,” she says.
But the company is undeterred by the challenges as it pushes to increase exports to high-end markets, such as Japan where Heilala Vanilla is fast gaining a reputation as a premium product. “The most important factor for Japanese customers is the Tongan origin of Heilala Vanilla, therefore our marketing focuses on the unique beauty of the Vava’u Islands. When Japanese customers pick up a bottle of Heilala they are introduced to Tonga and the special place in the world that it is,” Jennifer says.
Heilala Vanilla started exporting to Japan in late 2012 and through its importer and distributor is stocked in high-end department stores and cafes throughout the country.
“It was a very proud moment seeing Heilala Vanilla feature in many of Japan’s prominent retail stores,” Jennifer says.
“The highlight of the trip was hosting Tania Laumanulupe Tupou, Tonga’s Ambassador to Japan, along with a number of Tongan Government Representatives at the Takagusui Café in the very prestigious Central Tokyo Post Office Building where Heilala Vanilla is proudly included in the store showcase and features on the café menu.”
Heilala Vanilla now exports to over eight countries including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Denmark, USA and Brazil. Jennifer says it is her personal goal to make Heilala Vanilla a globally recognised premium vanilla brand and place Tonga on the global food map. “We want Heilala Vanilla to be to Tonga what Fiji Water is to Fiji. In other words, our aim is to put this tiny South Pacific nation in the minds of foodies everywhere,” she says.