With rising incomes globally and an aging population, health food is no fad. Whether we’re talking whole grains, organic, gluten-free, paleo, nutraceuticals (for example, dietary supplements, scientific-based natural remedies, and nutrient-enriched foods with purported health benefits), or just general healthy eating with a focus on fresh fruit and vegetables, New Zealand exporters are making inroads.
Burger Fuel and Habitual Fix have both brokered deals to bring healthier fast food to the US and further afield, Rockit Apples has moved its snack-sized apple variety into Asian, North American and European markets on the back of healthy snacking desires, and Nadia Lim’s My Food Bag is now bringing healthy home meal deliveries to Australians.
The market potential is huge. Americans are expected to buy $204.8 billion-worth of nutraceuticals by 2017, according to Transparency Market Research.
And in Japan, China and India – where what you eat and drink has traditionally been seen as determining your health and helping to cure illness – the markets aren’t far behind.
In the UK, The Guardian reported organic food sales rose 4% in 2014, despite a general downturn in the rest of the market, while Euromonitor International predicts the global healthy foods market – including functional, allergen-free and organics – will reach the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2017.
Science-based natural health foods company Anagenix and bioactives producer Quantec are two Kiwi companies working to meet the demands of the aging population, particularly in Asia where, as Quantec managing director Dr Rod Claycomb says, there is a “strong attention to preventative health, rather than curative,” and a “really strong affinity to natural products and solutions.”
There are two key demographics for nutraceuticals, says Chris Johnson, Anagenix group managing director.
“Firstly the baby boomers. They have plenty of cash and want to live a longer, more fulfilling life and they want to do that through natural products wherever possible,” he says. “It’s a very big market and it’s getting bigger. It’s big in the US, and Europe is following close behind. And in Asia, China is a very strong market already.
“The other area is 30-somethings. They want integrity from what they buy. They’re very conscious of whole foods and natural products, and wherever possible they want integrity. They also have got the money and will spend on health and wellness.”
Both Quantec and Anagenix trade on New Zealand’s reputation as a safe food producer. Quantec develops milk-derived proteins for its anti-microbial properties, and Anagenix uses the apparently higher levels of plant micronutrients in New Zealand (thanks to our high levels of UV) to create a competitive difference in its products.
While Johnson says the New Zealand Inc image has been a boon in the export marketplace, our location is not without its drawbacks. Finding the cashflow to leverage growth and opportunity is the first big one, and a prime reason behind Anagenix’s decision to pivot from marketing the bioactives they develop themselves, to developing them on behalf of other companies to take to market.
The Aussie Market
That leads to another challenge Johnson identifies for other Kiwi exporters: size. “If you build a market overseas and it takes off and then you can’t fulfill your orders because of a raw material shortage, you lose that market and they may never trust you again,” says Johnson.
More traditional food and beverage exporters wanting to take advantage of the healthy food trend, need look no further than Australia,
says NZTE business development manager Peter Winter.
"In Asia there is strong attention to preventative health, rather than curative, and a really strong affinity to natural products and solutions" - Dr Rod Claycomb, Quantec
Australian supermarkets are making more space for fresh fruit and vegetables and actively looking for organic produce, while healthy adult snacking provides a good market opportunity. Despite our neighbour’s sometimes frictional relationship with our food imports (apples, anyone?), overall the Aussies are welcoming if we can bring something of quality to the table.
“Retailers believe if they can find an innovative better product, say from New Zealand, they are quite willing to look at it,” Winter says.
Still, Winters counsels caution and says exporters should spend time in-market to fully prepare. “Do your homework and understand what the Australian consumer is on about. There are similarities but there are also differences,and if you understand those you can have great success.”
The Prada bag of the food world?
With 7 billion people on this planet – and counting – there’s going to be a challenge to feed everyone. While the World Health Organization and others say we already produce enough food (the problem is distribution inequality), global markets will turn to new sources of protein and – word to all the Huhu grub farmers out there – that’s likely to be insects.
KPMG New Zealand’s global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot isn’t recommending we turn our fields to locust production. However, given we are capable of feeding only around 40 million, he sees the real opportunity for Kiwi food producers in the expanding premium market. New Zealand should be aiming to provide 5% of the diet of the 800 million richest people, he says.
“You want to be the high value bit of the diet, the food you eat because it aligns with your aspirations in life or to celebrate at exciting times,” he says. “You want people to eat New Zealand food because it’s the Prada handbag, because it makes them feel really good.”
That fits with the experience of NZTE business development manager in Australia, Peter Winter, who reckons one of the biggest trends across the ditch is premiumisation – anything from expensive ice cream to premium-quality prepared meals.