Formosa Gourmet is a gourmet food brand promoting Portuguese delicacies (olive oil, canned fish, salt). In March 2018, the SME attended the “Food & Drinks mission in Japan” organised by the EU-Japan Centre, which included 4-day (free) exhibition space at FOODEX Japan, the largest food and beverage fair in Asia.
The company presented his range of organics seafood products to Japanese visitors and distributors.
Activities: gourmet food brand
Formosa Gourmet was not yet present in Asian market. Japan is the 3rd largest economy in the world with a densely populated market and therefore the best Asian country to start with. Furthermore, Japan is a strategic market due to its position as a trendsetter for nearby countries.
Finally, its good infrastructure and companies’ commitment for high-quality products and loyalty to business partners facilitate long term perspective.
During the mission Formosa Gourmet made a lot of contacts and directly after the FOODEX fair, sent follow-up email in English and Japanese to most of them.
Mrs. Elsa Larsson Regnström, representative of Formosa Gourmet and mission participant explains: “Since our first step to enter the Japanese market was to find a suitable importer, we focused on contacting potential importers, although we also sent information to the stores/retail chains/distributors (…)”
The company efforts to find distributors have met with some success since few weeks after the mission, they reach an agreement with a Japanese importer who took over our contacts from the fair and will continue the follow up process with them: “He had a particular interest in our main product category (fish). This was a good agreement for us since he knows the local language, market and procedure better than us. We have also provided him with detailed information about the products. Some of this information was required for the Japanese customs and quarantine check, which was necessary before continuing the follow-up procedure.”
After the approval from the Japanese customs and quarantine, the first samples were sent to Japan in May. The samples were used for marketing activities and resulted in a first order. The products in the first order will be used to scale the marketing activities as well as to be delivered to the first individual shops: “We expect that process to take a long time, but we are satisfied with the progress so far.”
For Formosa Gourmet the first important step was to find an importer as most stores and retail chains do not import themselves. Before the mission, it was hard for the company to understand the complicated distribution channels, the retail landscape and the Japanese custom procedures. Fortunately, they got a better understanding, after the first day of the mission and found an importer fluent in English. If they did not have found him the next main obstacle would have been the language barrier.
Moreover, their research about the Japanese food & beverage market and translation of its marketing material into Japanese, has been proven very useful as it helps them to better introduce their products to Japanese at the fair.
Elsa insists on the necessity to prepare detailed instructions about the product and being patient while doing business with Japanese:
“If your product is new to the Japanese market, prepare detailed instructions how to consume it (…) be prepared to provide very detailed information about your products and production procedure and official certificates and documents that guarantees the quality. However high quality is not enough, product design is also essential.
Respect the business culture and be patient. It takes time to do business in Japan.”
Interview made with Elsa Larsson Regnström Managing Partner & Sales Manager at Formosa Gourmet (July 2018)