Exploring the Global Food Community

By Janis Grover

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with students in the Honors College at Rutgers University about exploring career opportunities and current events at the Center for Global Advancement and International Affairs. During a panel discussion on “Communicating in a Global Society”, I addressed the topic from the global food market perspective.

As our food world has become more interconnected, the need for communication skills and awareness of cultural differences has increased. While our customer base has become more diverse this does not always mean flexibility has been embraced by management. Sensitivity to cultural differences impacts our success in the business world. There is great value in understanding other cultures, languages, and purchasing habits. Companies need to look at creating a more diverse and inclusive network of customers, employees and support services.

To move a product from an ethnic channel of distribution into the broader specialty food market means adjusting to expectations and a much more robust competitive platform. To complete in the larger retailer opportunities brand managers need to expand their own awareness of the retail opportunities. Buyers expect new suppliers to provide full market information identifying an opportunity gap.

It is essential to include visits to restaurants, stores, trade shows, warehouses and manufacturing plants to fully understand the market you are planning on entering. How we display products, prepare them, offer them for tasting, store and ship are unique to each community. Basic transactions in selling and buying are complicated by local terminology and expectations. Lack of clear understanding can leave product stranded in-transit or arriving after a major holiday. Researching business opportunities includes developing labeling, packaging, marketing materials that fully explain the brand essence to a buyer that is totally unfamiliar with your product.

Companies that focus on managing these details can do much to ensure their successful entry into the US market.

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