Thursday, July 7, 2016

Info-packed summit preps state alcohol makers to export products

Kathy Davis

Washington-grown wine grapes
on the vine
Wine, beer, cider and spirits are as much agricultural commodities as potatoes, apples and beef. As such, developing export opportunities for these products is important to the state’s economy and this industry sector. 

That’s why WSDA’s International Marketing Program sponsored a Beverage Export Summit on June 29. The event introduced Washington beverage businesses to resources to help them start or expand exporting activities. 

Did you know that a boom in popularity of Italian foods is driving increased sales of red wine in Japan? And with half of Vietnam’s population under age 50, young, trend-seeking consumers are looking for new products, such as craft beers.

WSDA’s in-country marketing experts

These were just a couple of the demographic and cultural factors presented by WSDA’s in-country marketing representatives. Each spoke about strategies to place Washington beverage products into overseas markets. They are:
Ship in Port of Seattle. Photo credit: Natalie Sullivan

  • Li Haidong – China
  • Scott Hitchman – Japan
  • Danny Kim – Korea
  • Francis Lee – Southeast Asia

Along with data about market share and growth trends, these representatives offered insights into the prospects and challenges of exporting to each country. For instance, Korea is half the size of Washington state and has seven times the population. Drinking, Danny said, is an important part of social life, doing business and celebrating special occasions.

While hard cider is becoming popular in the U.S. and especially in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not familiar to Asians. Because it’s made from fruits, Francis said there’s confusion about what it is – a vinegar, or used for cooking? He suggested cidermakers could use tasting demonstrations to establish it as a drink. 

Growing export sales

Washington hops used
in beers. 
Other summit presenters covered topics such as taxes and tariffs, managing the risks of international payment and preparing your business to be ready for export. 

About 25 company representatives attended, including wineries, breweries and cideries. By a show of hands, most are not exporting their products now. 

Morning one-on-one meetings with WSDA’s market representatives, the afternoon summit and follow-up networking reception, all held at McMenamin’s Anderson School in Bothell, armed these companies with resources and information to develop export strategies and grow their sales. 

The International Marketing Program webpage has more information on the program and how its staff can help businesses enter the export market. Contact them to be informed of future workshops and events.