Thumbnail Image

Importers Buying Preferences Towards Small to Mid-size Food Product Exporters

Kennedy, Steward Michael
Importer Buying Preferences Towards Small to Mid-Size Food Product Exporters is a contract project which has extended the research focus on export market development into primary data collection (interviewing import buyers at foreign trade shows) for a specific clientele (small to mid-size food product exporters). The product and marketing attributes, which most influence buyers decisions have been identified through a survey, conducted at foreign trade shows. The project focused on food product industry buyers and will be disseminated to small to mid-size food product exporters. The results will be used to modify their product and marketing activities to more effectively enter the export market and compete successfully with larger firms. To reach the objectives, this research project surveyed foreign importers/distributors of high value food products; specifically those directly involved in the food industry. The first objective was accomplished by asking questions that identified specific product and marketing attributes that would increase the purchase of U. S. high value food products by the food sector. Importers/distributors in the food industry were asked specific questions pertaining to the importing company's size, location, and type of food products imported and the number ofinternational transactions conducted yearly. The importers/distributors were also asked the importance of price, quality, portion size, appearance, packaging, labeling, stage of preparation, financing, transportation and relationship with the seller. To obtain the second objective, the importers/distributors were asked what products they are having difficulty locating and what opportunities would be available for small to mid-sized food companies in filling the market niche. Food service importers were polled specifically about their needs related to uniquely flavored specialty food products they are unable to obtain. To reach the third objective importers/distributors were asked about their willingness or reluctance to work with small to mid-sized companies, or if they prefer to only work with large multinational corporations. Specific questions were asked to determine what importers in the food industry need from smaller firms to make them competitive when attempting to serve their industry. With this information, we determined the factors that distinguish one product or company from another and the importance of each factor to the importer. The data will be analyzed using commonly accepted statistical techniques for the analysis of survey data. One challenge to collecting this type of data was the problem of accessing the appropriate people who make the buying decisions. It is unlikely that top management in a multinational corporation could be convinced to fill out an U. S. University questionnaire. However, it is the contention ofthe project that by participating in international food trade shows there was a successful collection of information that was previously unavailable. Trade shows are a high traffic area for people who have purchasing power within their organization. Research findings indicate that one day at a trade show is the equivalent of spending a month contacting customers, scheduling appointments and making field sales calls (U.S. Department ofComrnerce). The average field call costs approximately 2 times more than one contact at a trade show. Approximately 47 percent of each trade show audience plays a major role in the decision to purchase products. Almost 30 percent of attendees are owners, partners, presidents, and general managers (Charlet, Henneberry). The cost of data collection would be substantially lower than making field calls on companies to collect the necessary data. By participating in trade shows, the project was able to collect large amounts ofdata in a relatively short amount of time. The project collected data from three different international food trade shows representing buyers from the food service industry. During the data collection phase of the project we worked closely with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to target markets with a particular interest to southern U.S. food manufacturers. The markets where data was collected were Russia, South America and the Pacific Rim. These areas were chosen because oftheir importance to the southern U. S. and the ability that. consumers within these areas have for purchasing specialty food products. The growth that these markets are experiencing is phenomenal. Table 1 shows the growth that these areas ofthe world have experienced since 1988. South America has grown by an amazing 371 .7%. These large increases in purchases make the Pacific Rim and South America good target markets. The large quantity traded with Europe makes it an attractive market to export high value food products. The data collection took place in 1996 - 1997. The interpretation and analysis was completed by August 1997. The completed research project will be submitted to economic journals and published as a research bulletin. A magazine style summary will be submitted to trade publications such as the AgExporter.