More Vermont products may end up on the plates – and in the glasses – of Chinese diners over the next few years, thanks to connections made during the recent Food and Agriculture Trade Mission to Hong Kong and China. Secretary Ross led the Vermont delegation, which included Arnold Coombs of Bascom Family Farms, Jeremy Stephenson, President of the Vermont Cheese Council, Alex Weiss of Caledonia Spirits, and Chelsea Bardot Lewis, Director of VAAFM’s Food Export Program. The trip was covered in a recent 7 Days article by Corin Hirsch: http://www.7dvt.com/2013vermont-food-producers-cultivate-asian-market
Plans for the mission were put into place when Secretary Ross was asked to represent the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in his role as President on their annual China mission. The Agency worked with Food Export-Northeast, a nonprofit organization that helps small food companies access international markets, to develop a complimentary program for Vermont businesses. The Agency’s travel expenses were covered by these two partner organizations.
“Identifying new markets for Vermont products drives economic development and increases sales from Vermont’s food and farm businesses,” said Ross. “The Chinese market deserves our attention not only because of its size and rapid growth, but also because of the demand for healthy, safe, high quality products that align with the types of products Vermont companies have to offer.”
With annual increases in disposable income at over 60%, the Chinese consumer is increasingly looking for specialty products. Dairy products were in very high demand, as was wine, specifically in Hong Kong. The Agency of Agriculture hopes to continue to build connections with the Chinese marketplace over the coming years.
“As a result of this mission my understanding of the Chinese market has grown by leaps and bounds,” said Coombs. “As the Chinese knowledge of cheese, maple and other specialty foods grows, Vermont’s quality will be in demand. An ongoing effort, not necessarily an expensive marketing program but a consistent presence could have very nice returns in the long term.”
For more information on Vermont’s Food Export Program, contact Chelsea Bardot Lewis, Agricultural Policy Administrator, at Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-522-5573.