Chris Mercer helped develop The Olive Industry Export Handbook, to provide guidelines and tips for export to China. Photo: Lucinda Jose ABC

Olive producers seeking to gain a marketing edge in China and raise awareness of Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) are turning to the Olive Industry Export Handbook to fine-tune their understanding of Chinese import protocols and testing requirements.

Developed during 2016 through a project in the Hort Innovation Olive Fund, the handbook was written by industry consultants Chris Mercer and Paul Miller to assist producers to strengthen their knowledge of the Chinese market place and boost access for Australian EVOO.

It provides guidelines covering product standards, food safety, traceability, quality, packaging, labelling and product distribution. It also provides tips and advice across areas such as planning and shipping, finance and insurance, and brand development and communication.

Speaking from Shenzhen, Chris Mercer said one of the initial challenges to overcome is that many Chinese consumers are unaware that Australia produces EVOO, with the market dominated by Spanish, Greek and Italian product.

But he says consumer perceptions could be shifted over time, and marketing initiatives such as QR codes on Australian EVOO have been well received by shoppers.

“We developed the QR codes in response to studies that showed 90 per cent of Chinese shoppers research a product online before they buy, and that they value the origin and quality guarantee of the olive oil they buy,” Mr Mercer said.

“Australian EVOO incorporating this innovation features one QR code that provides a link to a short video about the grower and his or her farm, and a second QR code for security and traceability, that can be scanned by shoppers to find out where and when the oil was produced.”

A producer ‘roadshow’ was delivered in six locations across the country to assist with the preparation of the handbook and its partner initiatives, the Export Code of Practice and the Export Workbook, as part of the project Essential work to facilitate increased exports to China, removing roadblocks and enhancing competitive advantage (OL14003).

Mr Mercer says a key concern expressed by the growers looking to export to China was security of payment.

“Most growers who attended the workshops had concerns about getting paid and I guess there are two strands to this – making the sales in the first place, and then getting paid for what is sold,” he said.

“The first is something that can be worked on in terms of branding, positioning, social media marketing and content generation. The second is a question of education and information for growers as to how to go about doing overseas business safely.

“The research has highlighted that you don’t need huge volumes of EVOO or ultra-low pricing to get into the export market.”

To order a copy of the Olive Industry Export Handbook contact Will Gordon, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Lead on 0427 920 924 or will.gordon@horticulture.com.au

This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the olive research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.