Archive for 'Conferences'

Another Day, Another Continent


Whilst at Hong Kong airport, waiting to board my first ever flight into mainland China, I took the time to look around.
Things looked reassuringly normal…
This could be any plane, at any airport.


But then I noticed this industrious person.
I suppose this is one way to ensure a clear view for the pilot!




Then I noticed this guy…
Not sure I would  want to sit there for my break, given how luggage trains and the like can whiz around the tarmac.



While boarding, I noticed this.
Not that unusual to have economy separated from business class by a curtain, but I’d never seen it signposted so clearly before!
Definite class distinction going on here.
There was also nothing subtle about how the Chinese leave  a plane: the minute the plane stops after landing, the people seated at the back are out of their seats and pushing towards the exit.  No patient waiting in the aisle here.  For obvious reasons though, no photo of the exit strategy!

China – Where Knowledge Is Valued

My travels took me to China a couple of weeks ago. Initially to Hunan Province and then on to Beijing.  There will be a few entries relating to food retailing in China here over the coming weeks as well as a commentary or three on the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  So, watch this space.   But, I would like to kick off with a few thoughts  about the other reason for the trip – which was to give a key note address on the role of Action Learning within the context of organisational development at a symposium on that topic at Peking University.  And no, I have not accidentally reverted to Beijing’s previous ‘label’ here, I did this deliberately.  The university went back to the original ‘Peking’ version of its name when it discovered that its brand image was severely impacted through the politically correct name change. 

My Mandarin Was Not Good Enough To Cope Without A Translator

So, here I was, the only Laowai amongst three hundred Chinese – and I have to say, I felt very comfortable.  One of my hosts had recently completed a Masters Degree  in Horticultural Extension at Wageningen University in Holland so it was easy to find common ground.  It was fascinating to see how the horticultural value chain has advanced in China anyhow – but the opportunity to gain an insight into how learning is being managed in this economy full of superlatives was something else altogether.   

Learning is being taken very serious in this country – and the appreciation for knowledge runs through the Chinese social fabric regardless of the century one lives in and the prevailing politcal system of the moment.

A Stroll Through Berlin (II)

You may remember the blog entry about munted expired Christmas trees flung indiscriminately off their balconies by Berliners in the weeks after Christmas.  I have been asked whether I had made that story up as some  Hortsource reader are clearly doubting Thomases. 

Politcal Footballs Are So Yesterday - How About A Political Christmas Tree Then?

The short answer is, “No, it’s the thruth, honest, Gov!”  Here is the proof. A couple of days after just about breaking my leg negotiating Christmas trees loitering on footpaths across the city, I came across this electioneering poster designed and displayed by the Berlin CDU – the conservative party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. It shows a candidate for the local body elections busy clinging to a Christmas tree.  The caption reads – “CDU cleans up.”  Abandoned Christmas trees are clearly a key political issue in Berlin, at least when it comes to local elections.  Any lessons for our elections later this year???

Staying with the concept of interesting sights.  Here is a carton of Jazz apples taking a couple of its minders for a stroll across the  Fruit Logistica exhibition.  A fairly sterile affair, a trade fair.  Everyone in his or her finery, spot lights on the product, every apple polished to make a good impression, crowds of people, no where to park the car, a need to get reaquainted with the concept called “winter coat” and “Garderobe”, the place where one needs to leave one’s coat in order to avoid suffering from overheating as one visited the fair.  When one wants to understand though how the punters on the street feel about new fancy apple varieties or if one wants to understand the scope of the market we are exporting into, one needs to keep wearing one’s coat and mingle with the locals in a spot where the locals shop! Like the Wochenmarkt – a German farmers’ market. 

Jazz apples with bodyguards

Apart from the aroma of Bratwurst and mulled wine which alone  are worth a visit, one gets to see apple varities one did not even know existed.  Many of these are heritage varieties, varities which existed when the old Kaiser Wilhelm was around – and you know what?  People are buying them.  The competition and the opportunity for our apple marketers is enormous!  A traditional apple market like Germany does not make it easy for something new from the Antipodes like Jazz to turn up and say, “oi, move over.  I am here now and want some shelf space”.  We should therefore not undestimated the effort companies like Turners & Growers and others have to go to, in order to achieve a degree of cut through and exposure, particularly in mature markets like continental Europe where every consumer is an expert!  Well done!

On another matter , I am yet to find a decent Royal Gala I am happy to finish in the local market here in Auckland.  What am I missing?  Bad season? Somebody better put me out of my misery and come up with an explanation, because I can’t accept that I should have to eat substandard apples in a country that prides itself on its pipfruit quality!

Kaiser Wilhelm Apples & Colleagues

Apple Buying Is Serious Business

A Stroll Through Berlin (I)

Fruit Logistica beckoned and here I am.  IFPS, the International Federation for Produce Standards is running its first Global Forum tomorrow, so I will be quite busy for the next three days. I like to combat jet lag by walking through town on the first day, to get my bearings, to observe and to get the old mind working so that sleep will come when it is called for and not at eleven o’clock in the morning.  Herewith a photographic record of some of my finds.

Second Hand Christmas Tree Loitering On Street Corner

Berlin being the metropolis it is cannot afford for all of its citizens to live on quarter acre sections.  The majority of Berliners therefore dwell in multi- storage housing blocks, some with Hinterhoefe, some built in Kaiser time, some built by the Communists and some relatively new.  One common habit that can be found in the vicinity of all is that when Christmas is over, the now surplus to requirement tree gets unceremoniously dumped from the balcony down onto the pavement, in the vain hope that that the boys from  the municipal rubbish collection will come and clean up.  Clearly, there is a bit of a problem with that when the trees are still lying around the street in early February!

Still pondering what had happened to people who went walking through Berlin on, say, 6th January, the day Christmas trees traditionally get taken down thrown down the balconies and I come across this Turkish greengrocer.  Or is he? 

A Greengrocer Who Has Seen The Light

How does one describe a retailer who is open 24 hours, sells every hard liquor type one can possibly think of to anyone who has the right money, runs an Internet cafe and, last but not least, offers quite a respectable range of fruit and vegetables right outside the store around the clock?  Whatever one calls him, he is clearly a man who goes with the time.  Pity though that Mrs Greengrocer is still in the back of the store bagging the onions, that the granny is operating the till and the daughters are merchandising the store whilst the Pascha stands outside, smokes his cigar and is satisfied with his days work.

Garlic anyone?

Yes, of course, garlic is part of the produce department. It doesn’t matter whether I go to a supermarket or greengrocer, I will always be able to find garlic somewhere near the onions – and that sort of attitude is exactly why we do not always maximise our sales opportunities in this country.  In recent years, jars of pressed garlic have found their way into some of our produce departments but as a category, garlic is underperforming.  As a category, I hear you ask?  Since when is garlic a category on its own?  Well, the only roadblock seems to be our imagination.

A SERIOUS Garlic Display!

Time to get serious I reckon, there are dollars to be made here.