New Zealand exporters are competitors here but collaborators there
Judy Finn, of Neudorf Vineyards, might compete with vineyards such as Nautilus Estate and Craggy Range for New Zealand wine shoppers' dollars.
But when it comes to spreading the word about this country's wine overseas, she says there is strength in numbers.
Neudorf is part of Family of Twelve, a group of a dozen family-owned Kiwi wineries that works to educate key export markets on what is available in New Zealand.
"There is a lot of travel involved when you are selling wine," Finn said. "We thought there was too much time on the road and doubling up – why not share it?"
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She said members of the Family of Twelve, which has been operating since 2005, could go to an event in London, Paris, New York or Hong Kong and share all the wine from the group, not just their own.
"It works very well. A big thing I felt was as New Zealanders we struggle, we're not as brash as our competitors overseas and it's easier for me to sell someone else's wine than my own."
The group will also work together to show key wine industry figures around the country and each year the wineries get together to share their business and winemaking successes and failures so that they can learn from each other.
"The intellectual firepower around the table is enormous," Finn said.
"If you've got a problem these are people you know and know well with the same businesses. We operate on honesty and the ability to make a decision fast. It's exciting, we all like each other's wines and we like each other."
Kim Campbell, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, said exporters were discovering they could have greater leverage, with less effort required, if they banded together with companies they would traditionally compete with in New Zealand.
"New Zealand exporters need to open their minds to the opportunities which exist if they collaborate offshore. In the long run, this is about delivering better market access for them along with delivering efficiencies back into their business," he said.
"We are a small country, and if we want to make maximum impact overseas, we need to join forces. Often, overseas buyers are looking for a basket of goods – it's not about one or the other – and if we can work together, we all get a bite of the pie."
Finn said it was important for businesses who were collaborating not to think solely in terms of what they would get out of the arrangement. "First you sell New Zealand, then you sell New Zealand wine and then you sell your own wine. You're the third person down the line. You have to think 'if it's good for New Zealand, it's good for me'."
The arrangement is also working for avocados. John Carroll, of Primor Produce, joined forces with Southern Produce in 2013 to form The New Zealand Avocado Company, which exports under the Avoco trademark.
Carroll said it grew out of a desire to develop new markets for avocados, beyond Australia, where the companies had been operating independently. But he said to do that, they needed to work together.
"Southern Produce and ourselves decided to create a business that brought us together, doing all our export marketing together."
He said it built on a close working relationship that had been built up over a dozen years before that. Now Avoco exports 62 per cent of New Zealand avocados. Its 10 competitors export the rest.
Carroll said working together made the business more efficient and more credible to key customers because it could produce a larger volume of avocados and achieve economies of scale with things such as regulatory costs, freight and insurance. "Even the cost of travelling to the markets because we don't have to duplicate as much."
There was also shared knowledge and experience, he said. The biggest challenge had been integrating teams of people from different commercial backgrounds with different systems. "As long as you can get on and be honest about what's the bst way of doing things - it's not so much ego as getting used to having a different perspective. One customer in Australia questioned – are these two groups too much like oil and water? But we said we were going to bed this down and four years in it's frankly the best thing we ever did."
* Stuff Business is the media partner of the Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards 2017.