Australia a premium brand in Asia

ESTABLISHED in 1992 from a humble two-person operation in Sydney, Homart Pharmaceuticals has grown strongly into a successful mid-size Australian manufacturer with annual turnover over $10m. 

The company recently took out Endeavour's Exporter of the Year Award sponsored by EFIC for its incredible success in the Asian marketplace.

Homart has cornered the niche market of manufacturing, wholesaling and exporting of premium quality health supplements and skin care products. 

A major part of Homart's business is in marketing and exporting its brands of products throughout various Asian countries, especially to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Korea. 

Homart's export has been growing at break-neck speed of 850% in the last three financial years since July 2008 with its Export to Greater China Countries project, despite the GFC and strong Australian dollar.

The biggest current export market is China but there are plans to increase its presence in other countries such as Korea, Singapore and Dubai. It currently manufactures an extensive range of over 100 products in its Sydney factory, and continues to invest in R&D and launches seven to ten new products every year.

Homart also provides contract manufacturing services to companies in Australia but also creates its own brands of products and wholesales them successfully in the niche tourism markets in Australia through more than 500 Australian retail stores.

Operations Assistant Manager, Stanley Hong explained that with the high Australian dollar it's a tough market out there for exporters. 

"But we believe in manufacturing premium Australian complimentary health foods. 

"It's our 20th year and we are so confident in ourselves that we are expanding to a bigger premises and hopefully we can increase on the huge increase in exports we got last year and make double that figure next year," said Hong.

Homarts Export to Greater China Countries project, which started in 2001, aimed to market and develop over the following 10 years. 

According to Hong, the project has been a resounding success. "By 2011 an export market for the "Spring Leaf" and "Top Life" health supplements are now the premium Australian health supplements brands in the greater China region (China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan). 

The project was planned and executed in a staggered fashion in different according to market conditions and potentials, regulatory difficulties, and risk assessments to maximise success while minimise the amount of risk.

Homart has been proactive in developing marketing strategies through extensive research which found that the Chinese market was regionalised and that while mainland consumers were purchasing the higher strength products, consumers in Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan preferred luxury packaging. 

Another strategy which boosted sales immensely was the naming rights to the "Exclusive Australian Health Supplement Supplier at the Shanghai World Expo 2010". 

Although this event was little known in Australia, it was the biggest international event in China since the Beijing Olympics and was highly respected in the greater China region. This sponsorship association instantly created strong brand awareness of the company which resulted in booming sales during 2010.

The growth of Homart has not been without some difficulties especially within China and the un-authorised use of the brand's name. Homart has since registered in China and other important markets the copyrights for all its packaging designs, as well as the trademarks for all its companies and brands to prevent this reoccurring.

Although Homart did have its share of difficulties, Mr Hong said that it is all worth it and advises other manufacturer's to keep trying.

"It's tough in the beginning but I believe we are reaping the rewards now," said Hong.

"Focus on your strength and work hard and believe in yourself and you will get there in the end."

"We want to actively promote this image of Australia as producing premium, quality health food. Even though it's tough out there with the high Australian dollar we want to compete with our strength and that is our quality and the Australian natural image," Hong said.

As this category had a very high number of nominations, there was a highly commended award which ANCA won for the exporting success of its MX7 – Mass Production Grinding Machine. Despite the strong Australian dollar, the company expects significant growth in sales with up to 200 machines being planned to be sold. Strong demand remains even in this difficult economic climate with recent orders from customers globally including from Europe, China, Japan, Thailand and the US.

Image: EFIC's Robert Dravers Director – SME and Mid Market (left) presents Homart's Lynn Yeh and Stanley Hong with the Award.