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Heilala Vanilla shines in Japanese market

Friday 17 January 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva –
Heilala Vanilla is fast becoming a premium brand name in Japan. The world class vanilla producer from Tonga is this month completing its eighth shipment of award-winning vanilla products to the Japanese market.

Heilala Vanilla’s goal to be a globally recognised brand has been boosted with support from the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project. This project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Jennifer Boggiss, director of Heilala Vanilla, is confident that the size of each shipment will increase. She recently paid a visit to the department stores and cafes of Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe that supply the product range, along with two factories that use Heilala Vanilla extract and paste to produce over 160,000 biscuits per day.

Boggiss said that the trip provided valuable insights into ways to boost sales in the ‘complex and demanding’ Japanese market.

The Japanese market is the most sophisticated we have experienced to date in terms of product and packaging requirements. The quality, along with the food safety documentation, is the most demanding we have encountered in any of the countries we export to,’ she explained.

However, Boggiss says that the company is undeterred by these challenges, as it pushes to increase exports to high-end markets, such as Japan.

‘The most important factor for Japanese customers is the Tongan origin of Heilala Vanilla, so our marketing focuses on the unique beauty of the Vava’u Islands. When Japanese customers pick up a bottle of Heilala, they are introduced to Tonga and the special place in the world that it is,’ she added.

Heilala Vanilla was founded by John Ross, along with his daughter Jennifer and her husband Garth Boggiss. Vanilla beans from Tonga are shipped annually to the company’s base in Tauranga, New Zealand, where value-added vanilla products are produced and distributed to a range of retail, food service markets and food manufacturers around the globe. This includes countries like Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark, USA and Brazil.

Since 2012, the IACT project has been assisting Heilala Vanilla, which is one of the 42 enterprises being supported in the Pacific. The project is aimed at strengthening the export capacity of Pacific Island countries and territories in the primary industries of agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and livestock.

Through IACT, Heilala Vanilla is provided with the technical assistance and support required to serve export markets. This mainly involves work in the areas of organic certification, the purchase of specialised equipment, and expertise in the use of best practices.

Heilala Vanilla’s expansion continues to reap benefits for Tongan vanilla farmers. In 2013, the company paid vanilla growers more than 20 TOP per kilogram for green vanilla beans.

Boggiss explained that Heilala Vanilla is committed to rewarding vanilla growers above global vanilla market price to help support the local communities.

‘Our ethos is to ensure that our growers are fairly rewarded for their crop. We believe this is an essential building block of economic, social and environmental development. Our growers use organic, sustainable growing methods, as these are the defining qualities of Heilala Vanilla and are what that make our products unique and of high quality,’ she added.

Heilala Vanilla began operation in 2002. After Cyclone Waka, which caused devastation to the Vava’u Islands, John Ross, a dairy farmer from New Zealand, completed a number of building projects and he then partnered with the Latu family to establish the Heilala Vanilla plantation. Since those early days, John and his Rotary Club colleagues have continued to support the islands with annual community projects. In 2013, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation was established to ensure this community support to the Vava’u Islands was ongoing and sustainable.


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