Papua New Guinea’s Tropic Frond Oils was keeping ahead of the competition at Fine Food Australia in Melbourne.
Dennis Hill of Tropic Frond Oils and Melbourne based international distributor Pauline Cleaver of Wild Coconut attended Fine Food Australia to showcase their Niugini Organics range as part of the Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Pacific Islands stand. They were alongside 11 other Pacific island exporters and distributors.
Mr Hill said they received good interest from trade show visitors who asked questions and were keen to sample the cold pressed virgin coconut oil. The product has enjoyed a wave of popularity.
Two years ago most coconut oil in Australia was sourced from the Pacific. But now Sri Lankan and Thai coconut oil are their biggest competition with many companies exhibiting a range of coconut oil products at Fine Food.
Mr Hill said they have had to work hard to maintain demand in a highly competitive market. However, they have two big selling points to offer: “Quality is very important because there is lots of poor quality coconut oil around,” Mr Hill said.
Organic certification is the other competitive advantage that puts them ahead of the pack when knocking on the doors of the European Union (EU).
Niugini Organics is an accredited producer and processor under the Organic Food Chain Pty Ltd gaining certification for 100 per cent organic coconuts back in 2009. But to crack open Europe’s highly lucrative organic market it must also gain accreditation under ACO (Australian Certified Organic), which is recognised by the EU with assistance from Pacific Trade and Invest.
“Obtaining European Organic Certification through ACO is essential to getting market access in Europe,” Mr Hill said. The organic certification means preferential treatment under the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Economic Partnership agreement and means duty free and quota free access to the EU.
The certification will benefit Niugini Organics, which will participate in PT&I Geneva’s SIAL Paris 2016 exhibition in October. SIAL is considered one of the world’s largest food and beverage trade exhibitions held every second year. This year 6500 exhibitors from 104 countries supplying the food and beverage industries and over 155,000 visitors will flock to the Paris show.
Mr Hill, an agricultural scientist for 36 years has been involved in coconut oil production for the past 25 years along with his wife Debra.
They established Tropic Frond Oils Limited in 1994 to produce “Curls” a coconut oil product for the local market. But nine months after opening, a volcanic eruption from the nearby Mount Tavurvur and Vulcan wiped out Rabaul where the factory was located. They moved to Keravat, East New Britain, a safer distance from the active volcanoes and built a 1,200 square metre factory for the production of coconut oil and coconut oil soap.
Today they have 200 farmers and 38 staff in the factory. In Australia and New Zealand, they have more than 1500 customers and have made small shipments to Hong Kong, Singapore, and the UK.
Mr Hill said they share a one-on-one relationship with producers going hand in hand with business. “We pay a fair price and we are business-to-business,” he said.
After seeing many aid funded projects fall over when the aid money stopped, he told farmers they had to think of themselves as men and women in business.
They are expanding their soap products range and heading to Europe because every business needs to grow in order to survive, he said.
They are aware the market will move on to the next biggest thing eventually and the current coconut oil fad will diminish. The challenge now is to keep the trend going mainstream and to position themselves with a top class range of products for the long term.
For more information, please contact: PT&I General Manager Export Jeremy Grennell on firstname.lastname@example.org