Enhancing the Riverland’s international appeal

The Riverland COMMUNITY

Could linking the Riverland’s food and wine industry more closely with tourism, health, education, recreation and the environment boost the identity and business prosperity of the region and attract greater overseas interest?

It’s a question which has led the key findings of a UniSA report, prompting a round table discussion in the region among key industry stakeholders and leaders who are keen to promote the Riverland’s unique qualities.

The report, Thinking, Linking, Leveraging and Maximising, was produced for Regional Development Australia by the Barbara Hardy Institute, funded by Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia (PIRSA) under the SA Co-innovation Cluster Program: premium food and wine from a clean environment.

Adjunct Associate Professor David Ness, who led the research, says that linking different industries and sectors through unified regional branding may boost business growth in the Riverland region, while attracting greater investment from Asia.

“The report suggests that the notion of health and wellness, reflecting the region’s clean and safe products, relaxing lifestyle, and healthy river and environment, could form the foundation of such a differentiated regional identity and brand,” Assoc Prof Ness says.

Roundtable meeting. Photo courtesy of Murray Pioneer.Roundtable meeting.
Photo courtesy of Murray Pioneer.

The report was launched in Berri with a round table discussion. Participants included Berri Barmera Council Chief Executive Officer David Beaton, Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone and key local stakeholders from the wine and almond industries and the health sector. Also attending were UniSA’s Dr Jantanee Dumrak, Assoc Prof Sam Huang and Dr Ke Xing.

“To the participants, a regional brand was much more than a logo. Rather, it should convey a story and belief about the integrity, safety and sustainability of Riverland products and services,” Assoc Prof Ness says.

“An overarching Riverland brand could complement and add value to individual product brands, and its visibility could be enhanced by an accreditation tick or IT tag attached to products.

“It was pointed out that such a regional brand should encompass not only premium products, but also those such as bulk wines that are affordable to consumers.

“We discussed the growing interest and customer loyalty among China’s increasing middle class, in such clean, green imported products.

“In addition, it was suggested that wellness tourism including ‘health stays’, building upon the region’s health infrastructure and services, could be desirable for Chinese, Middle Eastern and other visitors.

“In turn, this would increase demand for clean, nutritious foods and beverages, and value-added health products such as essential oils, rose water, orange blossom essence and the like.”

The discussion also highlighted the potential of direct business to customer relationships in accessing overseas markets, using social media such as WeChat (China) and a virtual marketplace or e-platform, and highlighted the need for further research on what customers want.

MP Tim Whetstone.Tim Whetstone (pictured right) raised the report’s findings and round table discussion in Parliament last month.

“Given the Riverland's unemployment rate is above South Australia's overall unemployment rate, there is an urgent need to focus on our agricultural export sector to create jobs, noting that more than 50 per cent of South Australia’s exports come from regional South Australia,” Whetstone says.

“The Riverland’s clean, green image and our very important fruit-fly-free and phylloxera-free status is critically important to our branding. So, there is much scope to increase trade with our key partners, particularly our Asian neighbours.

“Of the findings and recommendations of the report, I found most interesting the comments based around the region’s identity and branding.

“To me, it raises the question of whether the Riverland needs to have its own individual branding, its own logo, or a logo within the already prominent South Australian logo. Is there an opportunity to have the region’s own branding incorporating some of that Brand SA? I think we need to look at that.”