Organic Food Trend Wins in Taiwan
By Chiou Mey Perng
Just eight years ago, organic foods were sold only in Taiwans specialty shops to consumers with special health needs or to those who practiced certain religious beliefs. But todays new interest in organic foods provides excellent opportunities for U.S. exporters to market their organic products to Taiwan.
The popularity of organic foods on Taiwan can be attributed partly to promotional and educational efforts conducted by local academic and environmental groups. Within the last year, Taiwan agricultural authorities launched a trial certification program to provide consumers with "peace of mind" that the organic products they buy are chemical-free.
Four months after the certification program was established, local supermarkets in upscale communities began setting up organic food sections to sell mostly locally grown organic produce including fresh vegetables, fruits, rice and tea.
According to a survey, Taiwan consumers with high incomes, ranging in age from 31 years to 40 years old, demand more varieties of organic foods and more retail outlets where they can shop for organic products. Dry goods, processed foods and beverages imported from the United States and other countries are sold in nearly 1,000 specialty stores. The city of Taipei alone has an estimated 300 specialty stores that carry imported organic foods.
The two top organic food importers and distributors on Taiwan are the Santa Cruz International Development Co., Ltd. and the Organic World Corporation. An estimated 90 percent of their imported organic foods are from the United States. The remainder of the imported foods found on their store shelves are from Australia, Italy, Switzerland and other countries.
Tickling Taiwans Taste Buds
Taiwans consumers demand organic products such as grains, beans, lentils, tree nuts and dehydrated fruits. Popular beverages on the market include herb teas, apple juice, vegetable juices and low-salt tomato juice. Wheat grass powder and fiber powder are also big sales items among Taiwan consumers who use them for making drinks.
Some of the most popular processed organic foods include noodles, pastas and canned soups. Seasonings such as olive oil, sunflower seed oil, tea seed oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and miso are also in demand.
Some of Taiwans restaurants are promoting healthier eating habits by offering organic food buffets, with a selection of organic and natural foods, an idea that is becoming quite popular on Taiwan. In addition, the restaurants conduct courses for their customers on how to prepare high-fiber, high-calcium, low-salt and low-fat diets. They also encourage the consumption of more raw vegetables and sprouts from organic seeds and grains.
U.S. Exports to Taiwan Expected To Grow
What is the potential for U.S. organic food exports to Taiwan? The time is right for U.S. exporters to promote their organic food products in the Taiwan market. Many inquiries are received from Taiwan companies about U.S. organic food suppliers and the products Americans can export to help meet Taiwans rising consumer demands.
Currently, Taiwan does not have import regulations specificallygoverning organic foods. All imported organic foods are subject to the same import regulations as conventional foods. Fresh vegetables and fruits must meet Taiwans phytosanitary requirements; processed foods must meet labeling and food additive requirements.
However, all that will change: Taiwan officials are working on their first set of health food standards. In the future, producers of organic foods or any foods that claim biological or medical affects on the human body will require a product license from the Food Sanitation Bureau of the Taiwan Department of Health.
Interested U.S. companies should contact Taiwan importers directly to ensure that their products meet specifications and labeling requirements. For more information on the Taiwan organic food market, contact:
American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei
P.O. Box 1612
Washington, D.C. 20013
Tel: 8862-2709-2000 Ext. 2316
The author is an Agricultural Marketing Specialist in Taiwan. Tel.: 8862-2709-2000 Ext. 2316; Fax: 8862-2709-2954;