THE green-gold colour of Australian table grapes is being turned from a point of resistance to a promotional element for Korean consumers.
An Austrade and Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA)-led campaign hopes to turn around a slump in Australian grape exports to Korea, a result of Koreans primarily purchasing by sight.
The export sales of Thompson seedless grapes fell by more than 50 per cent to 256 tonnes in 2016 compared to 545 tonnes in 2015.
That prompted the rebranding and promotional campaign highlighting the taste and colour differences, plus the sweetness and freshness of the product.
Austrade’s Seoul-based senior trade commissioner for Korea and Mongolia, Amanda Hodges, said Korean consumers hesitated to choose Australian green grapes because of their golden-green colour compared with other green grapes.
"While experienced fruit importers recognised the quality of the Australian table grapes, they were not willing to pay a premium given their concerns," Ms Hodges said.
"Local consumers tend to be particular about appearance, such as the shape and colour, when purchasing imported fruit, especially as Koreans have become accustomed to the colour and characteristics of the dominate Chilean table grapes imported since 2004."
Thompson seedless grapes were rebranded to “Tams Gold” – a combination of Korean and English words, "tams-rubda" (the Korean word "Tams-rubda" means attractive, nice and ripe and delicious-looking) and "gold".
Tams Gold grapes are generally available in Korea from December to April.
Due to Australia’s proximity, fresh grapes can be delivered in shorter shipping times relative to Australia’s competitors.
Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) chief executive officer, Jeff Scott, said it was important to introduce the different forms and colours of Thompson seedless grapes.
"We needed to educate the Korean consumer, and wholesaler, to say the yellowy golden colour of the Thompsons is because they are sweeter," Mr Scott said.
"Korea is usually a country that also buys by sight, not by taste."
The Tams Gold branding launch was held last month and was well received by key fresh produce importers, top-tier retailers and wholesalers who attended the event.
This was followed up with several in-store promotions during May with significant retailers like Hyundai Department Store, which has 15 stores across Korea and is one of three major department retail chains.
Under Korea - Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA), the import duty on Australian grapes has been reduced from 45 per cent down to six per cent this year, and will be eliminated by 2018.
Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner and third largest export market.
KAFTA is helping to create a competitive advantage for Australian exporters on a range of products.
Table grapes have been a star performer for horticulture exports in recent years, with Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) figures showing exports grew steadily in the five years to 2015–16.
Table grape exports to Japan and China increased substantially since trade agreements came into effect and technical market access was agreed to in 2014 for both markets.
The ATGA put the value of table grape exports at close to $377 million.