Western traditional medicines meets Eastern market
Kiwi natural healthcare company Artemis is reaping the benefits of China's reliance on traditional plant based medicines.
China contributes to about 80 per cent of Artemis' exports, and about half of its total sales making the region an important focus for the company.
General manager Leigh Kite said New Zealand's reputation has meant Chinese consumers want to experiment with Western herbal medicine which they think is safe.
"The clean and green image is very important and a big advantage for us. There's a trust in foreign products that Chinese consumers don't have in their own products," Kite said.
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She said although Artemis attracted a niche market in China, proportionately, the overall market was still very big.
"When you're growing quite rapidly it's important not to spread yourself too thin. We're solely focusing on China because the market in itself takes a lot of resource.
"It's important to remember it is so diverse and has many regions within it," Kite said.
The business overall has seen 300 per cent growth in the last three years.
Artemis has been exporting to China through the e-commerce and the diagou, personal shopper channel for two years to avoid the country's ambiguous regulations surrounding healthcare.
Diagou, which translates to 'buy on behalf' are personal shoppers who sell products to individual Chinese consumers through social media sites like WeChat and Weibo and websites like Taobao (Chinese equivalent of Trade Me).
Diagous can be small business owners or souvenir shops that stock New Zealand products, or Chinese students or immigrants that want to help friends and family or earn extra money.
Artemis got its first product registered for regular trade and distribution into China earlier this year. The thyme and lemon tonic was able to be registered without animal testing regulations as it falls under the food category, Kite said.
She said establishing distribution channels for products can be an arduous process.
"The regulations keep changing, but that's out of our hands. One has to be flexible when dealing with China."
Kite said, businesses that wanted to expand to China would need to be able to effectively communicate with Chinese consumers and apart from the language, being digitally literate with a focus on e-commerce and social media marketing was also necessary.
Kite advised other companies to be flexible and communicate with other businesses to build networks.
"Many companies are going through the same challenges so it's really important to have an open network, because the more you can learn from others it just makes things easier.
"It's dangerous to go at it alone and hold everything close to your chest," she said.