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Chinese trade mission gets a taste of the Northwest

As the buying power of China’s middle class expands, consumers are seeking the kind of healthy and high quality food and drink produced in the Pacific Northwest.
Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on June 23, 2017 1:16PM

Paula Phillips, right, president of Portland-based Pure Steeps, extols the virtues of the company’s Wonder Drink Kombucha, a fermented tea, to members of a Chinese trade mission during a June 22 event in Portland. Phillips grew up in Taiwan and speaks Chinese, an advantage in international trade.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press

Paula Phillips, right, president of Portland-based Pure Steeps, extols the virtues of the company’s Wonder Drink Kombucha, a fermented tea, to members of a Chinese trade mission during a June 22 event in Portland. Phillips grew up in Taiwan and speaks Chinese, an advantage in international trade.

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Ed Gerdes, left, sales and sourcing director of Hummingbird Wholesale, talks with Chinese trade representative Yu Chen during a June 22 trade mission event in Portland. Hummingbird Wholesale, of Eugene, sells organic seeds, nuts, grains, snacks and more.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press

Ed Gerdes, left, sales and sourcing director of Hummingbird Wholesale, talks with Chinese trade representative Yu Chen during a June 22 trade mission event in Portland. Hummingbird Wholesale, of Eugene, sells organic seeds, nuts, grains, snacks and more.

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PORTLAND – Time will tell, but Oregon and Washington producers of specialty snacks and drinks hope they made a tasteful impression on a visiting trade mission team from China.

Makers of cider, wine, mead and beer and vendors of various nut, seed and fruit snacks set up display tables two consecutive days at an event organized June 21-22 by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The China trade group was on its way back from a Fancy Food Show in New York, and the Portland visit was its only other stop.

Trade mission members sampled products as they moved from table to table.

“There’s been some interest,” said Doug Furlong, who described himself as the “boss nut” of Doug’s Nuts, based in Eugene. He sells nut mix snacks in a variety of flavors and combinations. He said Chinese buyers appeared to be looking for upscale products and “Everybody likes the packaging.”

Paula Phillips, president of Pure Steeps in Portland, offered visitors tastes of the company’s Wonder Drink Kombucha, a fermented tea. One trade mission member took a sip and said it reminded him fondly of a drink served at home in his childhood.

Phillips and company marketing representative Linda Shively said Pure Steeps sells in Hong Kong, but is not yet in mainland China. Their kombucha is organic and shelf stable, and appeals to the Chinese desire for healthy beverages.

Phillips grew up in Taiwan and conversed easily with trade mission members. “She can tell you about kombucha in two languages,” Shively said.

Holly Witte, of A Blooming Hill vineyard and winery in Cornelius, west of Portland, offered samples of her Pinot noir, Riesling and blush wines. Witte said she’d been researching the Chinese market and “I knew they would love our label.”

She said the company has exported a bit to China in the past. “What does it take? It takes exposure – and a great product,” she said.

Corrine Konell, of Sandy, Ore., displayed her protein bars made with goats’ milk dairy products. Konell said she is not quite ready to scale up production enough to sell in China, and most likely would look into Canada and Europe first. But she was interested in gauging reactions to her chewy bars, and was gratified by the buyers’ interest.

Adam Carlson, of Seattle Cider Co., joked he was “crashing the party” of Oregon producers. The company sells hard cider in Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, and China is a promising future market.

“You look at how fast the Chinese middle class is growing, and the rise of discretionary income,” he said.

China is Oregon agriculture’s fourth largest export market, behind Japan, Canada and South Korea. A minimum of $240 million worth of Oregon ag products is shipped to China annually. The figure is incomplete because some Oregon-grown or manufactured goods are shipped from ports in Washington or California, and aren’t counted toward the total.

Online: A link to the ODA’s trade and marketing section



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