By JACI HICKEN
Little Farms, Singapore commercial director Tom Gray recently embarked on a whistle-stop tour of Gippsland with a meet and greet of farmers and producers at the Morwell Innovation Centre.
“Little Farms is an all-natural, gourmet grocer based in Singapore. It’s about six years old and we currently have five stores, two of which have cafes attached,” Mr Gray told Gippsland Farmer.
“There are a few Gippsland products that have some interesting products and I’m trying to plug gaps in our current range of products.”
The gaps Mr Gray identified for Little Farms are small goods, baby food and kids’ meals, and sustainable seafood.
“Seafood, seafood, seafood. It’s a pretty big gap for us. We are looking for sustainable fishing, small boat fishing, with a particular interest in someone who can do a private label fish range,” he said.
“I’m looking for private label suppliers, so people are willing to do Little Farm brand products. We have started a private label range with 90 SKUs (stock-keeping units).”
Organised by Food and Fibre Gippsland’s Export Hub in collaboration with Invest Gippsland, Mr Gray and Export Connect director Najib Lawand looked at, tasted and discussed Gippsland dairy, snowpeas and bouquet products.
Export Connect is a consultancy and advisory service that helps Australian food and agribusiness open and grow export markets by providing them with market intelligence, competitive data sets, strategies, pitches and connections they need to succeed.
“Special projects like this one, where we bring a buyer from a high-end premium supermarket chain in Singapore to come and meet with potential prospective suppliers from the Gippsland region,” Mr Lawand said.
“We work individually with companies and through programs like Invest Gippsland and Food & Fibre’s Export Hub to help them achieve this.”
“Today is part of a more significant program with Food & Fibre Gippsland (FFG), where we deliver an equitable program that includes capacity building and a workshop program around market insights.
“We are helping FFG members understand the opportunities in North Asian, South-East Asian, Middle East, UK and US markets.”
Export Connect has worked with Gippsland producers like South Gippsland Dairy to help them get to international markets.
“We have come across quite a few products that are suitable for export or are already exporting,” Mr Lawand said.
Produce Mr Lawand has had an interest in includes packaged salads, loose-leaf vegetables, craft spirits, dairy products – yoghurt, butter, cheese, colostrum – as well as beef and confectionery.
“All of these products fall into categories that are in demand, especially if they have a premium or functional perspective, functional in terms of gut health, immune-boosting, especially post-pandemic, consumers across the world, particularly in Asia are looking for products like that,” he said.
“In addition, Australia’s reputation for being a world-class producer of all-natural foods made in safe conditions makes them all that more appealing to consumers.”
Prom Coast Ice Cream’s Dan Encel said the business was already export-ready, with SAA global and HACCP accreditation and would love to use Singapore as ‘a springboard to larger markets’.
“Singapore is an advanced market; it is probably Asia’s most advanced consumer market,” Mr Encel said.
“If you can export to Singapore and successfully into Singapore, it will indicate that you should be successful in other South-East Asian markets.”
Mr Encel said he would like to export to Little Farms as they are a quality business with a beautifully-presented model.
“I know the freezers will be pristine, I know the product will be presented well, and I know the product will have the best chance possible to succeed if it goes into Singapore.”
Gippsland Jersey co-founder Sallie Jones would like to ‘dip’ the business’ toes in the export area and said a relationship with Little Farms would be an excellent way to start.
“Little Farms is very much a high-end premium store, which I think Gippsland Jersey is very suited to,” Ms Jones said.
“But they are interested in all of our products and we have sent samples over for them to try, so it’s hopeful that one day we will be able to export out of Melbourne.
“We are in the research phase and it’s always good to create relationships and networks, to understand who’s who in the zoo and how exporting works.”