GUADALAJARA, Mexico — “Flamboyant” was how one attendee I spoke with described Expo ANTAD 2010.

Mexico's marketplace beckons

Fred Wilkinson
Managing Editor

And at times, making the rounds on the show floor among the ample samples of tequila and provocatively dressed spokesmodels, it did almost seem like somebody decided to throw a huge party with a trade-show theme.

More than 30,000 visitors turned out for the 26th annual exposition for Mexico’s retail industry March 10-12.

Among the 2,000-plus exhibitors from across the retail spectrum were about four dozen U.S. companies from the food and agriculture sector, including more than a dozen fresh produce firms or marketing commissions.

A testament to the growing importance of Mexico as an export market for U.S. fruits and vegetables, eight commodity marketing organizations collaborating with the marketing firm Grupo PM used the expo to debut a Web-based instruction course designed to ensure safe handling of fruits and vegetables at wholesale and retail Mexico

In a parallel move, the Produce Marketing Association announced the expansion of its E-ssentials retail best practices training program in Mexico.

Optimistic outlook

U.S. shippers at the show expressed opportunity despite some regulatory roadblocks.

Todd Fryhover, president of expo exhibitor Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee, mentioned the leveling of the playing field that will result from Mexico’s recent decision to end its 47% tariff on apples.

Nearly a third of Washington apples already head south of the border, he said.

I noticed that every apple on the shelves at a Soriana store near my hotel bore a Washington label when I did a produce department walk-through.

U.S. cherries are among the commodities hit with a 20% duty from the U.S.-Mexico dispute over access for Mexican trucks — yet, despite that, the fruit boasted an 80% growth in exports to Mexico for the 2008-09 season, said Teresa Baggarley, international program manager for Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Cherries.

Resolution to the issue should make cherries and other items caught in the crossfire of the trade dispute even more attractive in the Mexican marketplace.

Another item held back by regulatory shackles (over concerns about potato cyst nematode) is U.S. potatoes, which are confined to a 26-kilometer zone along the border.

With nationwide access, the export gains for Idaho and other potato-producing states likely would be exponential.

Changes in Mexico

During a March 11 workshop on trends in consumer preferences and the economy, retail consultant Raul Lopez (whose resume includes stints at Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Taylor Farms and Fresh Express) discussed how changing demographics in Mexico affect consumer demand.

He said fewer children and the resulting smaller families — along with more singles and more women in the workplace — are increasing the demand for convenient yet healthy food products in smaller serving sizes.

Satisfying this demand will require ready-to-eat products that are convenient for the workplace and schools as well as convenience stores (which, if Guadalajara is representative of other cities in Mexico, are everywhere).

Sounds pretty similar to the U.S. marketplace, huh?

Lopez also said Mexican marketers should strive to emulate U.S. marketers’ regional branding identities, such as Idaho potatoes or Vidalia onions.

He cited APEAM’s efforts with avocados as a successful example of this with a commodity grown in Mexico.

E-mail fwilkinson@thepacker.com.

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