The need for the campaign, led by Austrade, Australia’s trade and development commission, arose after export sales of Thompson’s fell by more than half to 256 tonnes in 2016 compared the previous year.
Seoul-based Amanda Hodges, an Austrade regional trade commissioner, said Australian green grapes had fallen out of favour, despite their place as a premium product in terms of sweetness and freshness.
This is because their golden colour is at odds with other green grape varieties that Koreans have become more familiar with.
“While experienced fruit importers recognised the quality of the Australian table grapes, they were not willing to pay a premium, given their concerns,” said Hodges.
“Local consumers tend to be particular about appearance, such as the shape and colour, when purchasing imported fruit, especially as Koreans have become accustomed to the colour and characteristics of the dominant Chilean table grapes imported since 2004.”
To address this, Austrade joined with Horticulture Innovation Australia to implement a branding campaign to educate buyers about the taste and colour differences of Australian grapes and help build a premium market profile.
After extensive research, Thompson seedless grapes were rebranded to Tams Gold—a combination of Korean and English words. The Korean "Tams-rubda" means attractive, ripe and delicious-looking.
Tams Gold grapes are generally available in Korea from December to April. Because of Australia’s proximity, fresh grapes have shorter shipping times relative to Australia’s competitors.
Jeff Scott, chief executive of the Australian Table Grape Association, said it was important to introduce different forms and colours of Thompson seedless grapes.
“We needed to educate the Korean consumer and wholesaler, saying that the yellowy-golden colour of the Thompson’s is because they are sweeter,” said Scott, adding that Korean are more likely to make a purchase by sight, and not by taste.
The launch of the Tams Gold name, which was sponsored by HIA, took place last month and targeted key fresh produce importers, top-tier retailers and wholesalers.
It was backed up by in-store promotions at key retailers like Hyundai Department Store, which has 15 stores across Korea and is one of three major department retail chains.
Under a free-trade agreement between Australia and Korea, its fourth-biggest trading partner and its third-largest export market, the import duty on Australian grapes has been reduced from 45% to 6% this year, and will be eliminated by 2018.