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100% Pure – is it a little green lie?

16th July 2004

100% Pure – is it a little green lie?

“A significant gap exists between the clean green perceptions of New Zealand held by our export customers and the reality on the ground – I call it the Green Gap. Right now that gap is wide, muddy brown and posing a real threat to the sustainability of our export economy. While most of us realise this fact, the truth is that as an export nation we haven’t been particularly smart in protecting or enhancing the key selling advantage that we have”.

These are the comments of Rod Oram, business commentator at a recent presentation to businesses in Tauranga. Mr Oram confided that as a risk to our economic growth it was more than a Green Gap we’re dealing with, it’s a green lie. Most export sectors have benefited enormously from this country’s clean and green image.

You only need to look at the branding and marketing of our 100% Pure tourism advertisements to realise the value of our environment in the global market place. Walk down the aisle of a European or Asian supermarket and you’ll see the premium positioning of our kiwi fruit, dairy products and lamb, our organic products, all of them selling a piece of New Zealand. Numerous export businesses are leveraging off the pure New Zealand image and what an exceptional brand it is. Now it’s time to get smart.

A recent study of our major export customers revealed that they do care about the sustainability of New Zealand’s key exports – that’s why they buy from us. The 2003 study, by Jo Hulme co sponsored by Winston Churchill Fellowship and New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, interviewed 29 current or potential export customers in the UK, USA and Europe.

The companies interviewed have a combined turnover of around NZ$1300 billion (over 10 times NZ’s GDP). It is critical that exporters are aware of two key insights provided by the study. Firstly, that demand for sustainability exists and is growing – retailers and brand owners are key drivers for this as they seek to provide for more educated customers. Secondly, that New Zealand’s clean green image is a definite selling point – activism or an exposé related to the green gap appears to be the biggest risk to the brand or image.

Comvita Sales and Marketing Manager, Scott Coulter, says they market their bee and general health products using New Zealand’s image. For example, their ‘Winter Wellness’ range of anti-oxidents, has a background photo of snow covered Alps and a still, clear, lake. Coulter says all of their markets are different (of last years $22.5million in sales, exports to over 6 countries represented around 40%) but they all have common threads, one of which is the customers ability to make a connection between stunning New Zealand scenery and Comvita products.

Therefore New Zealand’s image is incredibly important to the credibility of the Comvita brand, says Coulter, and another reason why they concentrate on their sustainability platform. There is a huge swing worldwide, against foods that have genetically modified ingredients, he says, and even in the last six months, Japan has acknowledged that it is a major issue for them. The health sector in markets like the UK is huge, explains Coulter, and consumers are far more discerning and demanding than those in other markets. Coulter says the perception is that our product is from a country that has little or no adverse effects caused by heavy industry or over population.

“I cannot stress enough how maintaining New Zealand’s environment is of critical importance to not only our brand, but also to many other food and health product exporters.”


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