Trade, literacy and NPD: Blackmores outlines key ambitions as sole vitamin firm in China alliance
Last month, the Australian supplement giant became the first and only vitamin and dietary supplement (VDS) brand to be inaugurated as a member, making it one of four Aussie companies in the Alliance.
Executive director Marcus Blackmore and Asia MD Peter Osborne attended the signing ceremony at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, publicly cementing Blackmores' position in the CIIE Enterprise Alliance.
This membership gives the firm access to regular roundtable discussions with the Chinese government on matters of international trade, which it believes will further establish its reputation in its largest Asian market as a reliable provider of natural health products and services.
Points of discussion
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, CEO Richard Henfrey said Blackmores will take the opportunity to "highlight areas of specific interest in the natural healthcare category".
"We're committed to working hand in hand with the (Chinese) government to achieve expanded and improved access for foreign products to enter China, including via cross-border e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores."
He added that beyond cross-border trade, Blackmores hoped to positively influence discussion on the opening of more free trade zones, which he said would allow the company to better meet the needs of Chinese consumers.
"The Alliance meetings will also provide an opportunity to engage with different areas of the Chinese government of relevance to Blackmores' and Australia’s broader interests," he said.
Apart from further reach within China, Blackmores is confident that its membership in the Alliance will allow the company to strengthen its numerous existing relationships, including with educational institutions such as Tsinghua University, suppliers, commercial business partners in the e-commerce space such as Alibaba, Kaola, JD.com and VIP, retailers such as Watsons, China Resources and Yonghui.
Henfrey said: "This also provides opportunities for us to form new relationships, such as with the other very experienced and successful CIIE Enterprise Alliance members — both in China and from other countries — with commercial interests in China, within a free and open global trading system."
It is through these relationships that the firm intends to achieve its goal of improving public health literacy. To facilitate this, it will open the first overseas branch of the Blackmores Institute next year in Shanghai, focusing on China-specific research, development and education.
Henfrey said: "In 2016, President Xi Jinping announced the Healthy China 2030 policy, making health a national priority and acknowledging the importance of healthy lifestyles and prevention rather than treatment.
"Through the Blackmores Institute, we can contribute to improving public health literacy by providing expert education and training services."
At the same time, through the Institute's ongoing partnership with Tsinghua University to improve public health, both parties sponsor the annual China Health Communication Conference (CHCC) and run a health journalists' education programme to enhance access to better quality information in the media, something Blackmores believes "strongly benefits public health outcomes".
"This month, we will jointly publish a green paper on 'Working Women's Health' for discussion at the 13th annual CHCC," Henfrey revealed.
In addition, he believes Blackmores' CIIE Enterprise Alliance membership bodes well for new product development.
"We recognise that consumers' needs differ across markets and we look forward to developing innovative new products to meet the specific demands of people in China.
"We believe that new product development goes hand-in-hand with educating consumers about how to lead healthier lives, and we’re excited to share this message in a market that already has a long history of using TCM and a strong embrace of natural health."
Henfrey further said the company was especially encouraged by Chinese president Xi Jinping's address at the CIIE, during which Xi had promised to increase China's foreign investment opportunities, slash import tariffs, and simplify customs protocols for foreign goods.