How about some smoked maple syrup with that yakitori? And some Vermont hard cider to wash it down? Japanese consumers may soon see more Vermont products on the menu, thanks to a successful trade mission led by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Jolinda LaClair. Eight of Vermont’s premier specialty food and beverage companies, including maple, cheese, cider and spirits traveled to Tokyo with the Deputy Secretary during the last week in October. The trip was co-organized by Susan Murray, Director of the U.S. Commercial Service Vermont Export Assistance Center, and Food Export USA, a non-profit trade promotion organization based in Philadelphia.
While many Japanese consumers may not yet be familiar with the Vermont brand, the product attributes they are looking for align well with what Vermont has to offer: high-quality, healthy, organic, and beautifully packaged food and drink are in demand. Japan is the third largest consumer of maple syrup, after the U.S. and Canada, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture asserts that it continues to represent one of the best opportunities in the world for American food producers.
“The Vermont brand stands for quality, purity, and authenticity,” said Deputy Secretary LaClair. “It became clear during our mission that there are good prospects for Vermont products in Japan, and this mission is just the first step in an emerging trade relationship.”
Participating companies represented seven Vermont counties:
- Caledonia Spirits, Hardwick
- Dorset Maple Reserve, Dorset
- Runamok Maple, Cambridge
- Vermont Harvest Specialty Food, Stowe
- Sap Maple Beverages, Burlington
- Shacksbury Cider, Vergennes
- Spring Brook Farm, Reading
- Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind, Londonderry
The Vermont cohort took part in a seminar on the Japanese market, toured retail and restaurant establishments, met with Japanese representatives from Burton and Ben and Jerry’s, hosted an “Experience Vermont” reception for media and trade, and engaged in one-on-one meetings with buyers who had been specifically pre-qualified by Food Export’s Tokyo staff.
“The trade mission to Japan afforded us an opportunity to learn, build relationships and grow our business in a way we could never have done on our own,” said participant Curt Alpeter of Runamok Maple. “We now have the first-hand knowledge and connections to pursue business in Tokyo and beyond.”
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets operates International and Domestic Export Programs, supporting Vermont businesses to develop new market opportunities outside of the state. Funding is available to assist Vermont businesses with entering new markets. For additional information please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/trade-Japan or contact Chelsea Bardot Lewis, Business Development Section Chief, at Chelsea.email@example.com.