Aussie Muesli raising the bar in China
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For 25 years, Carman’s Fine Foods has been supplying high-quality, locally
sourced muesli products to consumers across Australia. After successfully
launching its products overseas in 2002, the company is now taking
advantage of Australia’s Free Trade Agreement with China to build its
business in a market hungry for healthy, delicious food.
Carolyn Creswell was only 18 years old when she bought a tiny muesli
business, Carman’s Fine Foods, in 1992. Armed with the belief that nuts and
seeds are the key to health and wellbeing, it didn’t take long for Carolyn
to transform Carman’s into a market-leading muesli brand.
Fast forward five years, and Carman’s is a household name in Australia. The
company’s product range, including muesli bars, porridge oats, oat slices,
nut bars and protein bars, is available in supermarkets across the country.
Its products can also be found on Australia’s airlines.
China’s demand the key to success
After 10 years of success in Australia, Carman’s went global in 2002.
Initially exporting to nearby countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, the
company now exports to 32 markets.
Carman’s International Sales Manager, Scott Koetsier, says tariff
reductions for the company’s exports have played a key role in its business
‘Our exports have doubled over the past two years, allowing us to employ
more people. We now have over 35 permanent staff and various contractors
who work with the brand,’ he says.
Recently, Carman’s has turned its focus to China, a decision Koetsier says
was based on thorough research and market insights.
‘Before exporting to China, we conducted in-depth consumer research and
found there was a high demand for healthy food products among China’s
growing middle class,’ he says.
‘Based on the research, we realised there was a big opportunity for us in
the market and could identify particular products within our range that
suited China’s needs.’
FTAs offer a competitive advantage
Helping Carman’s in its quest to successfully enter international markets
are Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
Tariffs for Carman’s products into China were previously set at 25 per
cent, but under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), the
tariff has reduced to five per cent, with this tariff due to be eliminated
on 1 January 2019.
Koetsier says tariff reductions under Australia’s FTAs have given Carman’s
a competitive advantage by helping the company establish important
partnerships in key markets and allowing it to offer high-quality products
at a reduced price.
‘The tariff reductions under ChAFTA have allowed us to apply a discount to
our products from the get-go, making them more appealing to customers,’ he
‘We have also been able to build a network of contacts with suppliers and
partners that I don’t think would have been possible without the FTAs.’
Koetsier says the FTAs also promote the high quality of Australian
products, allowing brands to enter markets with an established reputation.
‘The FTAs have helped emphasise that Australian products are high quality,
clean and safe. It’s been helpful to enter new markets knowing you already
have a good reputation and a high demand for your products,’ he says.
Know your export requirements
As with most export journeys, Koetsier says Carman’s has experienced its
fair share of challenges along the way.
‘One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced during the export process is
navigating the paperwork requirements,’ he says.
‘When you change the packaging of your products, some countries require a
special certificate for clearance through customs. There have been a few
instances where our products have almost been denied entry to the market
because we didn’t know about these certificates, so it’s really important
to do your homework, know the processes and have the right paperwork
Think global, act local
For those starting their own export journey, Koetsier says it’s important
to do your research and understand the market you are entering.
‘One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is to think global
and act local.
‘You need to approach your export market like you would with your home
market, by understanding the ins and outs and researching consumer
demands,’ he says.
‘Invest time and effort into visiting the market often to meet with
potential partners and learn about the culture.’
Koetsier also says new exporters should consider working with Austrade when
‘We have relied heavily on Austrade throughout the export process. They
have provided us with valuable market insights, including information on
cultural differences and processes, while also exposing us to a network of
distributors and partners.’
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