Hungarian bred Mangalica (Also known as the curly-hair hog. The blonde Mangalica was developed from older hardy types of Hungarian pig 'Bakonyi and Szalontai' crossed with the Hungarian Wild Boar. The development took place in Hungary in the early 19th century. - wikipedia) took the Japanese market by storm. Michelin-starred restaurants began to use the Mangalica meat and consider it among the world's best meat products. Mangalica producers already making plans to conquer Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. This is despite the fact that Japanese customers are the hardest to satisfy in the world.
In early May, Mangalica was a big success in Hong Kong as well. For the occasion, a stuffed curly blond Mangalica was sent to the far-eastern city. For quite some time, Mangalica has been a regular feature of the largest food fairs in the far east.
The term Mangalica is already a feature of Japanese entertainment and news programs; they talk about it in TV shows, and even incorporated it into the Japanese language. They have learned how to write its name using the katakana symbols and the Japanese pronunciation of the word is very close to the Hungarian. Mangalica perhaps, the only food product that Japanese consumers can identify as Hungarian said Norbert Palanovics who has been managing the Tokyo office of Pick Szeged since 2008.
According to Palanovics, the success of the Hungarian pork put Hungary on the map in Japan, before Japanese consumers hardly knew anything about Hungarian gastronomy.
The meat market in Japan is very crowded, since Japanese customers have started consuming pork Japan has become the world's largest meat importer. Spanish, Italian, and French firms compete for consumer's favor, this is the market where Mangalica has to hold its ground. That this has already been happening shows one example: in a traditional shabu-shabut restaurant last summer a specialty made of Mangalica meat was in the menu; it was offered for two months and it was such a success that this year the restaurant will be offering it again in limited quantities.
According to Hungarian experts living in Tokyo, since the introduction of Mangalica in Japan, Hungary has been considered a quality food supplier and treat us as a serious partner.
"If one wants to succeed in the Japanese market, one needs patience, money and strategy" says Norbert Palanovics. Pick Szeged also went down this road, and gained lots of experiences, but the learning process is still continuing. It's not easy to win Japanese business partners' confidence; this requires lots of meetings, discussions and almost always a visit to Hungary. On these occasions, Japanese buyers have to be accompanied from airport arrival to their departure in the meantime, you have to be constantly on guard that cultural differences not to cause any confusion says Palanovics.
There are plenty of differences between the two cultures. The language itself has many pitfalls. Japanese speak much less directly than, say, Hungarians. You have to know how to read between the lines. "If you have lived in Japan for a long time, you know how to read between the lines" says Palanovics who speaks impeccably Japanese.
In addition to language issues, there are many unwritten rules that make business negotiations difficult. How to hand over a business card is relatively easy to learn, but there are other more complex issues that business partners have to be aware of. In the conference room, for instance, the guest should always receive the best and safest place, which is in most cases far from the door. If you have a picture on the office wall, you can expect the best position to be opposite to the picture from which point the guest can see the entire image. If there are two leather chairs and a leather sofa in the conference room the customer always sits on the couch.
Decision-making takes place differently in Japan as in other countries, people have to be utterly patient. Japanese ask lots of seemingly irrelevant questions from potential partners that foreigners have a hard time to handle. Pick Szeged also went through this leaning process, it took almost a year before trust started developing between Hungarian and Japanese business partners and the Mangalica could be showcased in the Japanese market that went very well; in the past few years, it was in the focus of attention in several food fairs not least because a staffed animal was also exhibited during the fairs. It received the most enthusiastic reception in Hong Kong said Palanovics.
The Japanese find the Mangaica cute and interesting animal and they want to know everything about it: Where did it come from? What does it eat? How to prepare its meat in Hungary? Why is it so special? How come that it almost died out? How did you manage to save it? What gives a special flavor to it? These are the most typical questions the Japanese want to know about the animal says Palanovics.
The Japanese are not only curious, but also very demanding and picky consumers. "It has happened to one of our partners that one customer brought back a sealed plastic bag pointing out what changes should be made in the packaging based on customer comments" said Palanovics.
The Japanese perhaps are the world's most demanding customers. In Japan, customers expecting everything to constantly develop, every season should bring something new; you have to adapt to these expectations if you want to be successful on the market on the long run.
However, if the homework is done, then you have much easier time in other Asia-Pacific countries like South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. Pick pursuing this strategy, it wants to achieve the same success in other countries as well explained Palanovics.
(origo.hu – hungarianambiance.com)