Southeast Asia is a rapidly growing market for U.S. farm and food products, and exporters like Florida-based Kizable Kandy are eager to meet the demand.
But Brian Schroeder, Kizable’s director, noticed his company had a gap when it came to Southeast Asia. Kizable currently ships its candy, which comes in fun, designer tins, to more than 30 countries around the world – but it didn’t have a solid customer base in Southeast Asia, despite the region’s strong economic growth and increasing demand for high-value products.
With hopes of tapping into the Southeast Asia market and its potential, Schroeder joined USDA’s trade mission last month to Malaysia and the Philippines. Schroeder and representatives from 20 other U.S. companies as well as leaders from six state departments of agriculture spent five days learning about the region and meeting with government officials and potential customers.
Schroeder found immediate success on the mission. He knew that, rather than working with individual retailers, Kizable needed a distributor to really help the company enter the market and get its products to the right places. Thanks to the trade mission, he found that distributor in Malaysia. Not only will the distributor work with Kizable in Malaysia, but also in Hong Kong and Singapore, two other markets that were on the company’s target list.
“We never would have found this distributor if we hadn’t gone on the trade mission,” Schroeder said. “We’ve been in constant contact and are already predicting $100,000 of new business. We’re very excited about this new partnership.”
Schroeder encourages businesses who are interested in exporting to take advantage of the support and services provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the USDA-funded state regional trade groups. These services include everything from educating companies about the fundamentals of exporting to identifying overseas opportunities to helping market products through trade missions, trade shows and overseas promotions.
“Being on the ground and seeing what the market is actually like is such a great learning experience,” Schroeder said. “Even if you have experience in exporting, there are always things to learn.”
Schroeder says that because of the trip he learned about rules and regulations for the Philippines of which he was previously unaware. Because of that learning experience, Kizable Kandy will have a smooth entry into that market as well thanks to the contact he made with a Filipino distributor during the mission.
For more information about FAS programs and services for exporters, visit FAS’s exporting Web page. To learn more about USDA trade missions, including the June 1 to June 5 mission to Panama and the Dominican Republic, visit FAS’s trade mission Web page.