One food group taking advantage of the growth in India is fruit. The Washington Apple Commission was established in 1937 to develop and direct promotional programs to support the Washington apple brand in over 25 markets globally. As of recent, this includes India where the Washington Apple Commission has had a promotional program in place since the early 2000’s. That being said it is not surprising that the exporting of Washington apples to this region has skyrocketed in the past few years. Rebecca Baerbeldt, Export Manager for the commission, believes this boost is based on a few things. “With a middle class population of nearly 250-300 million consumers who can afford imported produce, a burgeoning organized retail infrastructure, growing consumer awareness about healthy eating and established perceptions about apples as a healthy and tasty fruit, India is an important region in terms of size plus potential distribution expansion from major cities to medium sized cities all across the country,” Baerbeldt states.
Washington ships apples to India year-round and they have a growing number of faithful customers who refuse to buy anything other than Washington apples. Baerbeldt is confident their shipments to India will only grow in the next year. This isn’t just a shot in the dark, as the amount of Washington apples exported to the country for the 2008-2009 year more than doubled that of the previous year. This accounts for over 50 percent of the apple exporting market to India. This is in addition to the 50-70 million cartons of apples India itself produces per year. The domestic supply is as its peak from September to December; also known as the Indian apple season. In previous years most of Washington’s apple exporting was completed after the apple season ended. Luckily, consumers realized the high quality alternative to domestic apples they had in Washington thus increasing India’s demand so the apples could be imported year-round.
Another reason Baerbeldt believes India is currently such a prominent market is because, in stark contrast to numerous other regions, India is not presently in a recession. Last year the pace in the Indian retail landscape transformation lessened a bit because of the global meltdown and resultant real estate down trend in India. However, this lull is being looked at by observers of the industry in India as what possibly could be a blessing in disguise.
Baerbeldt explains that some retailers, who had frantically opened stores all over without taking the proper precautions, are being afforded the opportunity to review their formats and make changes that will be necessary for the success of their business. The development of a retail infrastructure in India will help to expand Washington apple volumes nationwide. High value products like Washington apples suffered in the past because of the lack of retail space in smaller cities. Street vendors continue to comprise a major part of the imported premium apple market and are slowly being trained to handle Washington apples. This training and education combined with other avenues the Washington Apple Commission is taking along with the growing need for fresh produce in India will allow the commission to reach their goals rather rapidly.
Another industry breaking into the India scene is the California Grape Commission. The industry achieved access to the market in 2001 and began exporting their product the same year. India is still a relatively small market for the industry but has been growing annually since market access was gained. California grapes are now available in India everywhere from the larger chains to the street markets. To make their biggest mark when developing their product in India, the grape commission took a very hands-on approach. Susan Day, the commission’s Vice President of International Marketing, visited India to identify, review and appoint an in-country representative company to work with the importers and retailers in India. This would help to motivate California grape volumes. Initially, the commission worked in Delhi with the importers to increase their interest and to improve their knowledge of what would be needed to make exporting a success. They even went into depth on ideal storage and handling needed.
Research including grape tastings was conducted at golf and country clubs, at jewelry fairs, in shopping malls and other events at which the target audience would attend. Day explains that all the commission’s hard work is paying off. “India is on an upward move toward increasing modernization. Therefore, we expect California grape volumes to continue to increase to India as the market continues to be relatively undeveloped. Plus, as the already growing middle class continues to expand, there will be a corresponding increase in California grape consumption,” Day says. India produces large volumes of grapes, mostly of the green variety. The prevailing demand for California grapes has been for the red and blue/black grape varieties as Indian customers are very used to green grapes.
Another advantage to exporting to India is their use of various foods during major festivals and weddings. California grapes are in high demand during wedding season in India. Another peak time for grapes is Diwali, the festival of lights marking the beginning of the new year for businesses, which takes place in either October or November and is one of the most important festivals of India. Gift giving is an important custom for this festival. Traditionally, one could expect to receive sweets (sweetmeat) and dry fruits as a present. However, as times are changing people are moving away from gifting sweets and consumers are more often then not looking at healthier options. Fruits have become the perfect replacement. Currently there are not many domestic fruits obtainable. This is where California grapes step up to the plate. The grapes are colorful, healthy, great tasting and are also considered a high price item.
Even though these companies have broken into the India exporting market they will continue taking the necessary steps to ensure unrelenting growth and success in this area. One of the ways the California Grape Commission is going about this is by attending Annapoorna. Day is enthusiastic for Annapoorna and states, “We have participated in the show for several years. With so many people involved in the fruit business in India, it’s important to continue to be visible at these shows so that there is a way for central contact with the commission’s representative company.” With all India has to offer through their large population and respect of healthy, wholesome foods India is the perfect place for companies looking to break in to new and promising markets.