Friday, September 05, 2008

Canadian Maple Syrup: Musing on Export Market Innovations

Canadian Maple Syrup: Musing on Export Market Innovations

I have noticed no real Canadian maple syrup presence in Korean discount supermarkets. Some sources suggest an available Canadian product at E-mart. However there has been a hotcakes and pancakes instant mix branded, by several different suppliers, in most supermarkets for well over a decade. As well Japan is considered a mature consumption market of maple syrup products and shares several consumer profile similarities with Korea. Overall however the size of Korea's market is much smaller. As my mother's home village of Paquetville, New Brunswick is in one of the heartlands of the sugar shack industry, I have seen the increasing economies of scale possible in local production cabanes.

How would you create an environment that encourages creativity?

I would contact my mother's classmate and enquire about her local distribution and supplier relationships in Japan to seek to identify whether or not it currently represents an export market for her products. I would seek to establish whether Korea is or could be a new or growing market for maple syrup. The concept would be to approach Korean pancake mix distributors and suggest product alliances that perhaps would boost sales. Strengths and weakenesses exist, such as superior quality and purity levels of product preferred as well as identifying medical or known dietary benefits (locally considered "well-being" movement foods and ingredients- often organic) exist for glucose based syrups versus sucrose based man-made concoctions. Sales agents such as Costco market and sell large volume maple syrup products. The prevalance of inferior but cheaper syrups such as kiwi or blueberry compotes exist in the local market and poor product knowledge on the part of consumers might lead to a base rejection of Canadian maple syrups based purely on ignorance of its pride of place at the pancake breakfast table.

Small character bottles, such as those of the 100-150 ml variety in glass blown maples leafs would make an easy visual statement if sold together with an updated and possibly more upscale marketing approach to pancakes locally. Also characters such as those of Disney, teletubby, or other cutesy-types would attract visual effect of customer emotional attachment to the products on the shelf. These methods are often used in product placement locally.

The concept would need to match Korean customer emotional connections to characterization and launch purchase intention. This would require local research of preferred characters and a Canadian supplier able to deliver a premium product in relatively tiny 100ml bottles which would be labour intensive but perhaps provide viable export income in Korea. In addition it would reach population segments such as lower to upper middle income earners rather than perhaps the top 10%. I would encourage producers to investigate through test marketing alliances.

How would you test your ideas?

A few characters could be launched in various key market concentrations, for example, most cities in Korea possess population densities of 1800 people for each square kilometre. Through local volumes of research, especially on active consumer trends available through sales reports of alliance-based pancake mix local suppliers, some four to five market locations could be product tested in evolving a character association which would encourage increased pan-cake product purchase. The small volume batch would represent value-added for local mix suppliers and create a possible packaging update impetus which would more visually attract new consumers. I would try to sell it as a win-win marketing approach.

How would you implement the ideas?

Based on positive market results a larger scale partnership could be launched with the pancake mix manufacturer to implement a national market wide growth plan of small-sized character bottled Canadian maple syrup products which would visually attract young consumers, create Canadian product knowledge for small volumes and easily set up a scenario where larger and larger volume product alliances could be introduced allowing sales to grow in size with progessive increases in product purchase.

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