New Zealand needs to make more of opportunities to create an international food brand and image. Our small size an lack of capital can also be overcome with effective partnerships like the kiwi-Chinese partnership that created the Flat White Cafe in Beijing’s 798 Art District . Inspired by New Zealand cafe culture it claims to provide the best coffee in Beijing. Established five years ago by Wellington Fidel’s Cafe owner Roger Young and Chinese business partner Michael Hongfu. They now have five cafés in Beijing and also a coffee roasting business called Rickshaw Roasters.
Michael first came to New Zealand in 1989 to study English. Returning to Beijing and addicted to good coffee he started Flat white so he and his friends could get a great coffee. With support from Roger Young from Fidel’s and Geoff Marsland from Havana Coffee they originally used Havana coffee roasted in Wellington and shipped weekly before starting Rickshaw Roasters.
While NZ grown coffee isn’t a New Zealand export the cafe and roasters clearly create a strong New Zealand inspired image in the midst of crowded Beijing. This includes images of cabbage trees, colour prints of Whangamata beaches, pohutakawa trees and white sands. The Flat White Cafe might be a small operation however it demonstrates the potential for different New Zealand sectors to leverage off each other in promoting a consistent New Zealand image and brand.
It also shows how we often miss opportunities where our tourism, food and wine as well as arts and cultural industries could better leverage our limited resources in promoting New Zealand to the world. While traveling in Europe recently I was reminded how little most Europeans know about New Zealand outside of the
United Kingdom. Zespri Kiwifruit and the Lord of the Rings Movies were the images that most easily came to mind. When asked about New Zealand food most could not get past the “Kiwi” (fruit) or mixed up New Zealand and Australian wines “yes I have had some New Zealand wine, thats the one with the yellow kangaroo on it!
While New Zealand food and beverage exports are valued at about NZ$50b little is spent on promoting New Zealand food and beverages internationally. While the New Zealand Tourism board (Tourism New Zealand) has a budget of NZ$113m there is no equivalent agency collectively promoting New Zealand food, wine and other beverages. It is left to individual companies and entrepreneurs like Roger Young and partner Michael Hongfu to create this image and the opportunity to collectively establish a New Zealand reputation for the world best coffee, wine, beef, lamb, venison , apples and kiwifruit is lost. Try entering “New Zealand Food” in google and see what you find.