“We hope that farmers will not become a disadvantaged group and will not live a lifetime of misery.” The Epoch Foundation’s CEO Hsu Hsiao-bo pointed out that the situation of Taiwan’s agricultural industry needs to be changed, as well as raised the possibility of “new agriculture”.
So-called new agriculture refers to those industries that are extended from the original definition of agriculture, including the food processing industry and the catering industry, in which all the ingredients used are closely related to agriculture. The Epoch Foundation invited more than a dozen operators who already have a good reputation when it comes to new agriculture to brainstorm together to co-build a new era for the agricultural industry.
“The brand is the guarantee of quality, quality is the backing of the brand”
Early on after the establishment of the Hokkaido Agri Support Association, it had already seen the irrationality of the policies of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives towards farmers. Under the management of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, farmers needed to buy materials like fertiliser, pesticides and feed at twice the price as in the US, resulting in Japanese agriculture becoming a high- cost industry, with domestic farm product prices increasing as a result, and the industry losing its international competitiveness. Therefore, local dairy farmers started to reorganise the Hokkaido Agri Support Association. By allowing fresh milk to be independently circulated, the problems caused by centralised milk collection and unified prices were able to be mitigated, so that farmers could directly send fresh milk to the market and have bargaining space. In addition, in order to promote the use of feed locally produced in Hokkaido, upstream and downstream production units were integrated, meaning that real local Japanese- produced specialty fresh milk could be made and consumers’ right to know was honoured through a record of production and marketing. Furthermore, the Taiwanese market came to be prioritised as a foreign target location before Asia as a whole was eventually entered into.
“If there is no good product, there can be no branding. It is not because we are creating a brand that we have started branding, but because we are insisting on quality that we have chosen to do branding,” said the owner of “Kouju Tomato”, Koga Shinichiro, sharing his original intention behind operating the brand.
“Kouju Tomato” operates out of Sakagawa-cho, Saga City. The brand’s integration of agricultural technology allows for the reliable management of each piece of cultivated land and improves the consistency of quality across each farm. Every month a tasting meeting is held to discuss the products with consumers and reflect on any problems in a timely manner. Only products that conform to standards can display the “Kouju Tomato” brand before entering the market. “I hope that the income of future generations who inherit agricultural enterprises will one day be even better than public servants!” said Koga Shinichiro.
Reflecting on the challenges faced by Taiwan in developing a brand, Nice Garden Industrial’s Chairman Wu Kun-min believes that, judging from the example of the successful transformation of agriculture in Japan, the first thing a brand must do is differentiate itself. “The brand is the guarantee of quality, quality is the backing of the brand,” emphasised Council of Agriculture Director-General Chen Jen-pin. Chen Yu-jan, a professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, believes that today’s agriculture needs to be adjusted using technology and he encourages young people to work hard in order to capture opportunities for themselves.
To initiate the wave of new agriculture, “innovation” is key
Chang Sheng-che, the head of Family Pork, which sells the once-popular “Carrot Pork”, said that pork prices in the past were often in the hands of meat traders and most pig farmers did not know how their products tasted, meaning they could not cater to the needs of consumers. Therefore, Family Pork decided to systemise pork factories, shorten sales channels and engage in direct dialogue with consumers, as well as educate consumers on how to select good pork. Chang Sheng-che also mentioned, “In an era of fragmented knowledge, only the integrator can become the one who finds solutions.” Therefore, he not only promotes his own products but also uses pork to combine with other agricultural businesses to build a win-win platform based on a non-toxic farming method.
Mango ChaCha’s CEO Chang Chi-min practices what he preaches. He developed the first bowl of mango ice with an identification card that can be traced back to the fields where the mangoes are grown and to the production management stage. “Don’t stop with traditional thinking. Only look at the current development in Taiwan.” Because he saw changes in the structure of Taiwan’s consumption, Chang Chi-min turned the overseas market into a primary one, using mangoes to promote national prestige.
Green-in-hand’s founder Cheng Yun-yi believes, “If agriculture can serve as the foundation for nation- building in sinophone communities, it definitely can be beneficial for nations in general.” Green -in-hand wraps its farm products in culturally infused packages and works as a bridge of creative communication for agricultural products. At the same time, it has developed a channel for a new era. It has given new packaging to products that failed to deliver profits due to commodity price stagnation. In addition, it uses various exhibitions and activities to remind the public not to use price to calculate worth, but instead to understand the value of good things in order to bring real food into their lives and reduce food security issues. Green-in-hand will also be extended to a larger international market in the future so that beautiful Taiwanese products can be encouraged by the applause of the entire world.
PUREMILK Chief Operating Officer Kuo Che-you shared the current situation of Taiwan’s fresh milk market. “If you drink our milk, you will become addicted and will not be able to give it up.” At the moment, PUREMILK employs vets to check the health of its cattle. After milk is sent to the factory for sterilisation, it is directly bottled and goes through a rigorous inspection. This is how such a high-quality milk brand was born.
The way of agricultural marketing: invest in brands, integrate with the market
Lin Yu-hong from Jia Ji Ren Innovative Agriculture & Marketing pointed out that it is necessary to have the concept of “variety, quality and brand” if one is to be able to make marketing connections. If one is to produce appropriate products for international competition, the greatest marketing prerequisite is to possess enough understanding of the end market. The deputy general manager of Hwa Gung Tea inherited a five-generation long family tea business, whose strong growing, processing and selling systems have vertically integrated the supply chain. The business insists on adopting a contract production method when working with farmers, leaving them free of economic worries. It has also established criteria for tasting and grading, increasingly familiarising customers with the value of tea. It hopes that quality Taiwanese tea can strengthen the confidence of Taiwanese people in their own national drink and, at the same time, remind more people that the world’s top oolong tea brand is Taiwanese.
The general manager of Upwelling Ocean Inc., Steven Shyu, believes that the maintenance of a brand requires reliable supply. Therefore, he proceeded to develop a brand alliance model that solves misunderstandings between producers and helps small farmers to compete and cooperate with each other. He uses a model of agricultural production and marketing groups to connect production with sales and create brand value with all collaborators.
The general manager of K.K.Orchard, Chen Kin- chu, uses sweet potatoes as the core of his brand development. In the past, Taiwanese people were called “the children of sweet potatoes”, representing an inseparable relationship between Taiwanese people and sweet potatoes. Based on this, Chen Kin-chu focused on the interestingness of a familiar association with sweet potatoes as early as in his logo design stage. Apart from considering the familiarity of the brand, K.K.Orchard also released the “Icy Baked Sweet Potato”, one of its key products, using its main brand. Because of the creativity of the product name, it attracted a great deal of media coverage. Later, the company even expanded to the international market after obtaining a variety of certificates for its products from domestic and overseas agencies.
Bai Sian Agricultural Products Co. is dedicated to the edamame bean industry. Its sales manager Huang Jia-jun said that, in the past, first grade edamame beans were all exported to other countries and second grade beans were left for the Taiwanese processed food market. Seeing this, the company decided to change the situation, insisting that the best product should be kept in Taiwan. Huang pointed out the importance of investing in branding in a few words, “Building your own brand requires a team supporting your back. If you don’t have a team, you must spend one million dollars on getting someone to manage your brand for you.”
As the founder of Green-in-hand said, “Agriculture has been vital for our survival from ancient to modern times. Time has proven that agriculture will continue to play a vital role in our survival in the future.” Agriculture is a great and indispensable industry. Because of its unique geography and climate, Taiwan is home to many different resources and species. Under the guidance of “new agriculture”, we look forward to agriculture becoming a popular industry that helps every single Taiwanese farmer prosper on the global scene.