Better branding of Cambodian products is essential as major global brands inundate the domestic market and local producers look to compete in international markets, panellists said Wednesday evening during an industry forum in Phnom Penh.
Var Roth San, an adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, said Cambodian firms need to further establish their own brands and develop a perception of excellence in order to compete with the large number of international brands entering the country.
“It is very important to develop a Cambodian brand, otherwise people only want to buy foreign brands, and for that, it is a matter of trust,” he said during the BritCham-organised panel discussion.
“If you want people to trust your product, I think the most important thing is internal control of quality assurance from product associations, such as is being done by the Kampot pepper association.”
Marketing and branding are essential to add value to a product, Var Roth San said, asking rhetorically, “If you peel off the label of Evian water, who will then buy that water?”
Nicholas Spencer, CEO of “wildlife friendly” rice marketer Ibis Rice, said that both the public and private sectors have a role to play in successful brand marketing, calling for the establishment of government-supported bodies to identify high quality products in Cambodia.
“I think that the government’s responsibility is to create a climate where provenance is protected, but also where enterprises and brands can excel,” he said.
Spencer added that it was essential for homegrown brands to focus on achieving local success before looking beyond borders to more competitive international markets.
Panellists acknowledged the success of Kampot pepper gaining international acclaim as one of the finest pepper varieties in the world – a distinction it was hoped would lead the way for other Cambodian brands to gain recognition for quality.
“The development of the pepper’s brand did not happen naturally, but through quite a lot of hard work over several years by the non-profit sector and the Kampot pepper association,” panellist Christopher Gow, owner of the Bo Tree Farm, a producer and distributor of Kampot pepper, told the Post after the forum.
“The brand’s success depends on building a reputation for being a fine and organic pepper product,” he said.
Gow noted that part of Kampot pepper’s success can be attributed in part to its Geographical Indication (GI) recognition, an international certification that gives protected trademark status to food or agricultural products whose unique quality or characteristics are essentially due to the specific geographical region in which they are produced.
“I think one of the great things of the GI award is that it has put the government behind the product as it is very proud of the achievement and is pushing the process along,” he said. Since receiving the prestigious award, the market value of Kampot pepper has doubled compared to non-GI pepper varieties.
For other Cambodian brands, of which few have gained international recognition, lessons can be drawn from the Kampot pepper’ success, Gow said.
He cited the need to effectively protect the quality and value of a product’s brand from counterfeits, a problem that poses a serious risk to Kampot pepper as many producers use the label for lower-quality peppers from other regions.