Positive response to local Tongan frozen produce trial

Tonga’s Nishi Trading Company successfully trialled its frozen taro, fries, pumpkin and hummus in the local market in Nuku’alofa late last year.  The response has been overwhelmingly good. 

Squashed Nishi pumpkin hummus.

“Using your own local market for product development is important to see how people respond to the product” says Nishi’s Marketing Expert Joanna Bourke, Executive Creative Director of CocoNew The Agency.

“It’s been easy to sell the frozen taro to hotels and restaurants who say the product is easy and convenient to use,” Miss Bourke says .

Nishi wanted to get its products out there and started producing for the local market, promoting it via social media she says.

Nishi Trading Company Limited is a family owned.  Nishi is one of Tonga’s biggest exporters of butternut, butterkin, and pumpkin with markets in Japan, New Zealand.

But local market-testing the frozen products is important or it could be destined for failure when exported Ms Bourke said.

Nishi Trading launched a healthy eating campaign a few years ago, encouraging people to eat more fresh produce, reduce obesity and other weight related illnesses.

Ms Bourke said in the past pumpkin and butternut is generally not part of the daily Tongan diet or staple foods in Tonga.

Rather locals prefer sweet potato, breadfruit, taro and cassava. But Nishi is working on changing the mindset that pumpkin is healthy for humans instead of solely for exports or as animal feed.

They are re-educating local taste towards eating more fresh produce butternut, squash and pumpkin as part of a healthy diet.  A recipe book filled with a variety of recipes providing recipes for cakes and muffins using the pumpkins own natural sweetness rather than added sugars was also produced from different sources to give people ways and ideas of using the frozen product.

UAE Ambassador Mr Saleh Ahmad Alsuwaidi (right) with Mr Minoru Nishi.

A pleasant surprise from the promotion was the unexpected success of Nishi’s Pumpkin Hummus made by Jenny Nishi, Minoru’s wife who wanted to show an easy way of using pumpkin. The hummus product and recipe was posted on their Nishi Trading Company Facebook and Instagram pages.

It sold like hotcakes at the local supermarket.  But the simple, pumpkin, chickpeas, lemon combination was a way to show people how to use the frozen products and give them a kick start into producing their own foods.

“We don’t want to give them processed foods, we want people to go home and prepare food themselves” Ms Bourke said.

Nishi’s Pumpkin Hummus so impressed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador who after sampling the hummus at a lunchtime demonstration by Mr Nishi, invited them to the Gulfood Show at the Dubai World Trade Centre, 17-21 February.

In addition, Nishi’s successful team were also personally handpicked by the Queen and King to be part of the organising committee for Tonga’s delegation to the six-month World Expo in Dubai in October 2020.  Tonga’s delegation will be situated in the Opportunities section of the World Expo.

A great start for 2019 that started with local trials for Nishi’s frozen products.

For more information please contact PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong on ian.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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