India Virtual Trade Mission 2020 – A Great Success for SUSTA

Unusual and unique situations call for unusual and unique solutions. This is what the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us. As we stay house-bound with limited mobility, the “new normal” situation sets the mind ticking for businesses who have managed to find innovative ways to keep thriving.

SUSTA, one such non-profit organization, launched a peerless B2B method to bring sellers in Southern America face to face with Indian buyers – via the SUSTA India Virtual Trade Mission 2020– a trade event that was a great success which was held virtually where the participants could easily attend it from the comfort & safety of their homes or offices.

SUSTA (Southern United States Trade Association) is known to aid small companies in the Southern U.S.to enable value-added U.S. food and agricultural products to explore foreign markets such as India. To help these Southern American companies gain an insight on the markets in our country and explore the tremendous trade opportunities herein, SUSTA organized the India Virtual Trade Mission 2020.

The event was organized between 14th-18thSeptember by SUSTA, with one-on-one meetings of Southern U.S. companies with the Indian buyers. Hosted by SUSTA, the Virtual Mission had a Virtual Conference Centre including a Seminar Hall, Meeting Room which consisted of all the companies showcasing their products, a Help Desk, and a fully stocked Resource Centre housing important information on the Indian economy, Consumer and Market Trends, Import Procedures & Regulations, and much more.

“We hope you find this Virtual Trade Mission beneficial for your organization. We wish you all the success on this mission and look forward to welcoming you to India shortly and to discover our country personally”, said Devna Khanna, Director, i2i Consulting, as a message for all esteemed representatives of the 10 Southern U.S. companies.

The event focused on building trade relationships between the Southern U.S. companies and the Indian distributors, retailers, wholesalers and HoReCa from the food & beverage industry. The renowned Southern U.S. companies offered various exciting food & beverage products that amazed the Indian buyers present at the event. The U.S. companies also assured the highest quality, premium ingredients, natural sourcing, and safe manufacturing of their products.

The participating U.S. companies at the event included-

1. Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.
2. Brittle Brothers
3. World of Chia/ Space Enterprises, LLC.
4. Ironclad Distillery Co.
5. Smokin’ Mary
6. Artisan Food Group
7. Avelina / Food Group International, LLC
8. Seven Jars Winery & Distillery
9. Festive Foods
10. BuzzBallz Cocktails / Southern Champion, LLC

The Southern U.S. companies were briefed about the India market scenario and its potential for those products, with samples being available with importers for a first-hand experience.

The delegates were given a thorough tour of the virtual set up of the trade mission. Each U.S. company was assigned a virtual booth with its product branding and website and social media handles. Informative videos of their products were screened on their respective booths for a better understanding of their product. Registration forms were also developed. A detailed information docket on the Indian market and economy was shared with the delegates before the mission’s commencement to familiarize them with the Indian landscape.

Event Inauguration

The event commenced with a warm welcome note by Danielle Viguerie Coco, Marketing & Communications Director, SUSTA, who highlighted the objectives, strategies, and upcoming activities of SUSTA. This was followed by an introduction by Devna Khanna, SUSTA India Representative, who welcomed the audience by highlighting the key growth aspects of India and thanked the U.S. companies for their interest in the Indian market.

Market Briefing and Overview by USDA

The other highlights included a market briefing and market overview by the senior officials from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) who advocated the premium quality of U.S. agricultural products and explained how the Indian market could benefit from the quality produce of U.S. farmers and ranchers, by exploring new import markets.

Mr. Mark Rossman, Agriculture Attaché, USDA, presented on various aspects to be considered by the U.S exporters before entering the Indian market. He familiarized the audience with labeling, packaging, import procedures and requirements, tariff and non-tariff barriers, etc. He advised the U.S. sellers to develop relationships, understand customer needs, be ready for a prompt response to inquiries, understand local laws, find the right partners, and secure payment terms.

Mr. Lazaro Sandoval, the Senior Agriculture Attache’, USDA, highlighted the growth opportunities poised in the modern retail structure and India’s food processing industry. He urged the Southern U.S. Companies to avail of the opportunities of exporting to the Indian market and assured support from the USDA.

Market Briefing on the Indian Economy

This was followed by a market briefing on the Indian economy by Mr. Shiven Khanna, Business Development Manager, i2i Consulting, who presented the Indian consumer trends and the consumption pattern changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking about these trends, Mr. Khanna said, “Though Covid-19 has had an adverse economic impact on India, experts believe the country will bounce back in 2021. Already the trend is heavily towards cashless transactions. Even delivery platforms like Jio and Amazon are tying up with mom-and-pop stores or Kirana stores. Here, quality, cost, safety, and convenience play a significant role while making a decision. As the demand for healthy, hygienic, immunity-boosting, unique flavors and convenience foods like frozen products goes up manifold, it throws up opportunities for companies to monetize and ride on these new trends.”

Opportunities in the HoReCa Industry

The event also saw presentations on the massive opportunities in the HoReCa industry.
Chef Sudhir Pai highlighted the foodservice sector and changing trends. He opined that the rise in urbanization and increasing disposable incomes fuel the increase in dining out and takeaway options amongst the Indian consumers. He also mentioned that U.S. origin products are considered to be “quality” products in the country. Talking about Institutional Buying and Opportunities in the HoReCa sector, Chef Sudhir Pai pointed out that India’s food sector continues to rise, and the number of foreign and Indian restaurant chains and diners is growing. Therefore, there is a great opportunity for imported F&B products and ingredients, and chefs are interested in introducing new cuisines and culinary/catering practices. Purchasing for the food service sector follows a Purchasing Control cycle.

Liquor Imports & Distribution and Cold Chain in India

This was followed by coverage on liquor imports & distribution and cold chain in India.
Madhvi Mohindra presented the current scenario of the liquor market in the country. She highlighted the Indian consumer’s consumption patterns and discussed the preferences and tastes in demand for alcoholic beverages in the country. “Before entering India, companies need to take into consideration issues such as the legal framework, legal drinking age, new products/SKU introduction, and Travel Retail Operators. The Canteen Stores Departments at 300K is today by far the largest customer”, Madhvi pointed out.
Manjunath MS, a Subject Matter Specialist & Advisor on Cold Chain, said, “India has the highest amount of cold space globally and can offer world-class cold rooms. Riding on Food Safety Compliance, newer processed products, and higher hygiene demands, the current levels in cold space are rising,” said Mr. Manjunath. “If any company is interested in getting their products into India, they will get the right required temperatures and infrastructure, right from the shipping line to the refrigerators in our house,” he added.

Labeling Requirements and Duties in the Indian Market

According to the final presentation on Labeling Requirements and Duties in the Indian Market by Gurinder Singh, Vivek Kapoor, Lokesh Tiwari, the main highlight was about FSSAI playing a significant role in sampling and controlling each import consignment. However, many other government agencies issue necessary licenses and permits for imports. Also, exporters need to be aware of different regulations such as customs clearances, documentation, import clearance processes, import duties, duty-free imports, restricted imports, etc.

Inauguration Conclusion

The SUSTA India Virtual Trade Mission 2020 Inauguration concluded with an exciting Virtual Market Tour of the major wholesale and retail markets in Delhi and Mumbai. The market tour highlighted the key aspects of the country’s retail scenario, including India, the world’s 5th largest retail destination. Total consumption expenditure is expected to reach USD 3,600 billion by 2022 and a booming E-commerce market. In the end, the participants were treated to an amazing promotional documentary film created by the Government of India – Incredible India! – Which brought out the country’s beauty in all its facets.

All the seminars were executed with a focus on the U.S. products and India’s current market trends. Once the Virtual Retail and Market Tour concluded, the participants indulged in virtual one-on-one meetings in the days to follow. The one-on-one meetings proved to be very helpful by allowing the Indian buyers and the SUSTA delegation to interact directly and discuss the market potential of their respective products in the Indian market and the best way to position these U.S. products for better reach to end consumers.

‘Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.’ showcased the range of Fresh Organic Citrus Juices and Exotic Blends. These drinks are crafted by juicing hand-selected, fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the agricultural fields of Florida, U.S. They were available in various flavors such as Pure Lime, Grapefruit, Organic Orange, Margarita Mix, Blood Orange, and more!

More on offer were the healthy Chia Fruit Spreads from a Texas-based company called ‘World of Chia.’ The highlight for these fruit-spreads is that they are made with pure chia seeds instead of pectin. Rich in Omega 3, fiber, protein, & mucilage, these Chia Fruit Spreads were available in premium and exotic flavors such as strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, marion blackberry wild berries.

The other companies also followed and presented high-quality U.S. products like ready-to-drink flavored cocktails, bourbon whiskey, brittle candies, instant noodles, chickpeas, and more. SUSTA successfully concluded the Virtual Trade Mission showcasing the promising 10 Southern American companies & generated good interest. These are sure going to create great excitement among new India!

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