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Collaborating to compete on world stage

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Kate de Lautour

If Hawke’s Bay companies want to compete in the global market place, collaborating with other like-minded players can offer advantages of increased scale and efficiencies, and more powerful marketing, resulting in added value to a business proposition.

Alasdair McLeod, Export NZ advisory board chairman has a wealth of experience working on national collaborative efforts, across the horticulture and agriculture industries and most recently the red meat sector.

Reviews of all these structures had encouraged companies to align themselves in order to compete more effectively on a global scale.

Speaking at a recent Export NZ seminar in Hastings, Mr Mcleod said collaborating wasn’t a silver bullet, however it could deliver success if companies had shared vision and “really clear drivers.”

“Collaboration requires shared commitment, a shared long term view and a clear exit strategy.”

Companies that could “get on” together were the most successful, he said.

Wine marketing and sales expert Michael Henley was involved in the establishment of the Family of Twelve, a collaborative marketing venture between 12 New Zealand family-owned wine companies and structured because of the nature of wine, being distributed in cases of 12 bottles.

Formed in 2002, the Family of Twelve remains committed to its goal of establishing credentials for the New Zealand wine industry as a premium producer in a global market.

Marketing initiatives include inviting wine writers and key influencers to New Zealand, to join a Family of Twelve wine tour, taking in all New Zealand’s wine regions and sharing the back stories behind the wines. The costs are split between the 12 companies.

“It’s proved to be an attractive option for people wanting to discover more about New Zealand wines and it gives all 12 wineries a chance to share their back stories and the characters behind the wines,” Mr Henley said.

Hawke’s Bay wine industry stalwart Mal McLennan (Mai Mai Creek) had no international marketing or sales experience when he decided to take the leap into exporting, six years ago.

“Doing some research into the US and UK market at the time, I found that distributors weren’t interested in taking on another small winery from Hawke’s Bay, and simply “having a story” wasn’t enough either, because all New Zealand wines have a story and they are all generally smart wines, so we needed more than that.”

The answer was a collaboration of five like-minded wineries, selling wine into the US, with one distributor. The market is one of the toughest in the world to crack, with different compliance in each state and a market more attuned to Italian pinot grigio than Kiwi sav’ blanc.

Despite the challenges, the group (Pacific Prime Wines) is now selling a container a month into the States.

More recently, Mr McLennan has joined forces with a marketing savvy Chinese national living in Auckland, to get access into the China market.

“China has meant a new business model for us (Trisan) but that’s because it’s a very different market. There are plenty of traders, but few experts and the Chinese like to finish deals in Mandarin.”

The demand from China for more New Zealand products is leading to further clustering for Trisan with other companies including honey, sheepskins and olive oil coming on board.

Building efficiencies within our global connections is the key driver for freight management partnership Kotahi.

The company’s two main stakeholders are Fonterra and Silver Fern Farms, with wool, apples, seafood and timber being smaller partners. The long term goal is to set a platform, to build New Zealand’s competitive advantage into the next century.

“New Zealand is the most remote, developed country in the world, relative to international markets - we need to be more effective in the way we move freight to and from these markets, if we want to compete,” says logistics specialist and Kotahi CEO Chris Greenhough.

“We are aiming to make handling as efficient as possible, we want to see full trucks and trains and scaled coastal services, sustainable port models and well utilised larger vessels which will bring the costs down for the individual businesses.”

Launched in 2011, Kotahi is a relatively new operation but the benefits for local exporters are already being seen. Direct to Europe container services are now leaving Napier on a weekly basis, rather than fortnightly as a direct result of Kotahi’s freight management.

Collaboration in the apple sector between six companies has recently resulted in the launch of new brand “Smitten”.

Johnny Appleseed general manager Paul Paynter said while he had been involved with two “roaring success stories” the apple industry provided different obstacles for companies wanting to collaborate, with competitive strategies sometimes out of alignment.

“Compatibility is crucial and beware of one way traffic people – the need to win an argument every time is not good for collaborative relationships.”