Rochelle's French affair
If nougat is to France what vodka is to Russia, local baker Rochelle Adonis has achieved the confectionary equivalent of sending ice to eskimoes.
Ms Adonis’s nougat has a growing legion of fans in France — the home of the traditional Montelimar-style nougat.
It is among the growing number of countries sampling the wares from her eponymous business in Highgate.
Her website is getting increasing orders from around the globe and she has just cracked her first official export market with her inaugural shipment to a high-end retailer in Japan.
Ms Adonis’s entry into the Japanese market puts her at the forefront of what is expected to be a massive increase in trade between the two countries with the recent free trade agreement.
The FTA will deliver better access to Japan’s 127 million customers by reducing tariffs on beef, cheese, wine and seafood, and abolishing them on canned goods, wool, cotton and beer.
In return, Japanese exporters will face reduced tariffs on electrical goods and cars, among other items.
Ms Adonis says the rewards could be vast, particularly as the Japanese are renowned for having a sweet tooth.
But despite the reduced tariffs, cracking the export market was a difficult process that took Ms Adonis an arduous four and a half years to complete.
And the jury is out as to whether selling in foreign stores is better than selling abroad through her online site.
“A lot of people said to me, just persevere, once you’re in, you’re in, ” Ms Adonis says of her attempts to get into Japan.
“Was it worth it? At this point I can’t say.
“We’ll have to wait and see whether repeat sales have been worth the headache.”
She says she found it a difficult and intrusive process, because she had to list ingredients, the quantities of each product and the cooking methodology.
The retailer who now stocks Ms Adonis’s nougat had demanded that she send a sample slab of every single variety of nougat, every single time she sent a batch.
She says that meeting those demands would have caused logistical problems in the kitchen, as well as eating into her profits.
“We had to get a little bit tough with them, ” she explains.
“In the end we said, this is our product, take it or leave it.”
Ms Adonis handled the export process herself after being approached by a Japanese retailer, but most exporters use an agent or a distributor.
Agents focus on finding customers, leaving the exporter to deliver the goods and then invoice the customer.
A distributor, however, takes ownership of the exported product and then resells it to local shops or directly to consumers.
Distributors earn higher margins because of their extra responsibilities, which can include carrying stocks of the product, extending credit to retail customers, conducting local marketing and after-sales service.
Austrade said contracts between exporters and distributors should be based on a set of internationally accepted terms called incoterms, which were arranged before the product was flown or shipped abroad.
Selling online appears to be easier, even though the requirements are officially the same.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture said every importing country had different requirements and restrictions.
“Food products exported from Australian must comply with the import requirements for the importing country, ” the spokesperson said.
“These requirements can vary for each country and is dependent on the commodity and potentially its weight.
“The requirements are the same, whether you are posting it abroad through the mail or through the ‘export process’.”
Sending a product through the post is a relatively straight-forward process that involves filling out a customs form at the post office for products worth more than $500 or weighing more than 500g.
Exporters must lodge a Documentary Export Declaration and go through identity checks with Customs and Border Protection if exporting something worth more than $2000.
© The West Australian