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The population of Australia, with 22 million people, is small compared to the U.S. and other Asian markets. With strict quarantine regulations making some products very difficult to access the market, Australia may appear be more trouble than it is worth. However, with a similar taste profile, common language, growing diversity and Free Trade Agreement making U.S. products duty-free, Australia offers great potential for U.S. products. On my recent visit to Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, I met with major players in the food processing sector, specialty food and beverage distributors, food service chains and leading retail stores.
“Green” is definitely an ongoing trend there. Like other developed markets, there is a heightened sense of concern for packaging to be more environmentally friendly and to reduce the volume of waste entering landfills. While they still have not gained the popularity seen in the U.S., “organic” and “natural” products are increasingly gaining more shelf space and consumer preference. A growing number of Australian importers and distributors are enthusiastic to market new imported products in these categories. In this way, U.S.- certified companies have an advantage as USDA certification is recognized as equivalent to the Australian standard, taking away the stress and paper work that can occur in other markets.
While there is a strong consumer preference to “Buy Australian,” with the current weakness of the U.S. dollar more Australian manufacturers and retailers are considering to import U.S. ingredients and finished products. The U.S. is perceived by Australians as being on the forefront of food and beverage trends. This perception not only applies to finished retail products but also to unique imported ingredients that offer Australian companies a point of difference in the market place.
While the diversity of restaurants in the major cities is commensurate with other leading world cities, there are unique differences. Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) offer a variety of set family meal combinations. Casual dining restaurants advertise “BYOB” (alcoholic beverages). The Australian foodservice market has taken its own unique way to integrate out-of-home dining into consumer lifestyles.
While maintaining its unique identity, the Australian market has many similarities to the U.S. which make many U.S. products a good fit. While navigating strict quarantine regulations on imported food can be tricky, recent trends in consumer preference, currency values, and regulations may make this the perfect time to enter the Australian market.