EU Gateway | Business Avenues has been present and active in the Organic Food & Beverage sector since 2016. The Programme has supported 7 EU-funded business mission to the Republic of Korea and South East Asia until 2020.
The first Organic Food & Beverage business mission  organised for the sector dates back to 2016, when the Republic of Korea took the spotlight. The market was fertile ground for EU-made organic products, due to a steady increase in demand on a consumer level and sustained governmental measures like Korea’s Strategy for Green Growth that made the organic industry a key sector. Furthermore, the Korea-EU Equivalency Agreement from 2015 meant that products with an EU organic certification label became recognised as “certified organic ” in Korea as well. This first mission  placed the focus on producers of processed organic food and beverages, allowing participants to exhibit EU-made products and visit the Food Week Korea exhibition.
Cafés Oquendo, a leading Spanish producer of organic beverages, established pivotal partnerships  in Korea during the mission:
The program allowed us to feel the market, to meet very important buyers and distributors and to understand all aspects needed to start a business in a new country, like their culture, their way of working, their influences and the way South Koreans shop. — Marina Rayón Martínez-Noreña, Export Director, Cafés Oquendo (Spain)
Berrifine, a Danish company providing organic fruit-based products, was also successful in finding new distributors and clients  in Korea:
EU Gateway | Business Avenues opens doors to many other potential clients for our products. — Jørgen Stølsgård, Chairman of the Board, Berrifine (Denmark)
Polish company Mipama  met numerous potential partners and buyers in Korea:
I didn’’t know much about the Korean market before I went for the mission. Now I know that Korean business people are looking for novelties, which might be introduced on the Korean market. – Ms Magdalena Szafarz, Mipama (Poland)
German company AcanChia closed an exclusive agent agreement with a local company and is since selling its products in Korea :
Since the launch, sales quantities increased constantly and are now on a stable basis. – Wolfgang Neldner, General Manager, AcanChia (Germany)
Here are some more telling testimonials from company representatives that took part in the inaugural mission:
Thanks to a positive response to the first mission, in 2017, a second mission  for the sector was held in the Republic of Korea. Once again, the selected EU companies benefitted from the business opportunities  brought by participating in the mission. Here, a wide array of companies offering organic products, both processed and ingredients, ranging from affordable to premium labelled found suitable business partners and clients.
Among these was Greek company Wisdom of Nature which signed an exclusivity partnership  with a Korean company met during the mission:
This is our first business collaboration in Asia and it had a severe impact on our growth in 2018. We are looking forward to participating in other EU Gateway | Business Avenues missions in order to expand further and on other Asian markets. – Dominik Brun, Sales & Marketing Manager, Wisdom of Nature (Greece)
Terre Cortesi Moncaro, an Italian producer of organic wines, made key contacts with importers :
Soon after the mission in Korea, we have started a business relationship with two importers. We believe we could grow with them, little by little. — Luigi Gagliardini, Export Sales Director, Terre Cortesi Moncaro (Italy)
In 2018, new markets were introduced in the mix for the third mission : Singapore and Vietnam. It was here that European companies got to meet new business partners and clients in the two markets and had a chance to exhibit at EuroSphere in Vietnam. Singapore is a veritable gateway to South East Asia and a major focal point for companies in the sector. It imports 90% of its total food needs , including in the organic niche. In fact, Singapore’s organic market has been growing at a high rate in recent years and is expected to reach € 208.1 million by 2021 . Vietnam’s activity in the organic food & beverage sector is still in a nascent phase but steadily growing in importance  in an effort to counteract issues related to food security and health concerns among the general population.
2018 also brought in another mission in the Republic of Korea , once again giving participating companies a chance to access the second biggest organic food and beverage market in Asia , establish partnerships and close sales in Seoul and beyond, and visit Food Week Korea, the largest local industry exhibition.
The EU-funded Programme continued to add new destinations in 2019, when it organised a business mission targeting Singapore and Thailand . The mission included business exhibition days at the 27th edition of Food & Hotel Thailand, a leading food & hospitality event in Thailand. In addition to an undeniable opportunity hub in Singapore, Thailand was a strategic choice, given its upward trend towards a more health-conscious nation and a growing market size then estimated at € 13.69 million . Both Singapore and Thailand recognise the EU organic label, making it easier for producers in the sector to market their products and appeal to the local crowds. The business mission was a unique entry point  for producers of organic baby food, cereal products, dairy, bakery products, spreads, confectionery, sauces, dressings and condiments, oils and fats, ingredients, alcoholic beverages, juices, tea, coffee & cocoa, fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood products.
The final two business missions targeted the Republic of Korea, once again, in 2019  and 2020 . By 2019, the organic food sector in the Republic of Korea reached a whopping €338 million  and is expected to reach €447 million by 2025 . It’s a high-yielding ground  for foreign companies who either market their products directly or cooperate with local retailers, distributors and manufacturers.
The 2019 event continued the tradition of holding business-to-business meetings, site visits, exclusive networking events and exhibitions before Food Korea Week. In 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is organised in an online format, including virtual trainings before the mission and a dedicated platform for B2B meetings.
Tallying the results from the first 6 business missions, held from 2016 to 2019, the following figures catch the eye:
- The programme gathered 1274 expressions of interest from European companies in the Organic Food & Beverage sector interested in expanding to one of the target markets. 270 participating companies from 21 EU member states benefitted from EU-funded support.
- The business exhibitions drew in massive local crowds. 4138 visitors from prominent Asian companies visited the European companies’ booths.
- The exclusive networking events during the business mission weeks brought 667 local guests to meet with EU companies in a more relaxed setting, conducive to establishing long-lasting business collaborations.
- Between 2016-2019, EU Gateway | Business Avenues pre-arranged 3276 B2B meetings with Asian companies; by the end of the missions, a total of 3740 useful meetings had taken place.
- The new business avenues opened-up in the Asian markets boosted activity for the participating EU companies. As a result of the missions and to keep up with growing business demands, the companies hired 543 new staff members in Europe.
- Data from a survey based on 183 respondents shows that 84% of the participating companies either stablished business collaborations or expected to do so within one year from the exhibition week, and 53 companies had already experienced growth in turnover in the target market.
The EU-funded missions proved to be instrumental in giving these European companies real chances of business success in Asia. Many signed distribution deals, or partnership agreements on the spot and are now selling their products in Asia, boosting hiring in Europe to keep up with demand and reaping massive profits from the new markets. This would have been inconceivable without a reliable network on the ground and backing from the EU.