SINGAPORE: Exports from New Zealand to Singapore and other Asian markets have risen steadily over the past decade, leading a senior public relations executive to believe it is New Zealand's national brand itself that is driving much of the growth.

According to research from Baldwin Boyle Shand, the strategic communications consultants, exports from New Zealand to Singapore grew to US$2.15bn in 2014 from just US$269m in 2004.

Carl Stephens, the company's Managing Director for Singapore, explained that the success of New Zealand brands stems from "creating a compelling story" based around the country's reputation for world-class quality and food safety standards.

In an interview with Campaign Asia, he pointed to the success of Tourism New Zealand's global "100% Pure New Zealand" campaign, which helped to reinforce perceptions of the country as a source of high quality products.

"From a natural and environmental paradise for tourists, lush pastures best for producing the highest quality milk, to fresh produce with world-class food safety and quality standards, this clean and green positioning has enabled New Zealand to win the hearts and minds of consumers here in Asia," he said.

Stephens added that what is helping New Zealand brands to stand out across Asia is the "ability to leverage their own unique New Zealand story, which really resonates with today’s consumers".

Asian consumers, for example, are paying far closer attention nowadays to health, nutrition and the provenance of food and drink – and New Zealand's high standards are reinforcing consumer confidence.

"From a storytelling perspective this means leveraging New Zealand's world-class farming practices by showcasing how the country farms sustainably and ethically to produce the highest quality products and produce, which consumers are willing to pay more for," he said.

His analysis chimed with a study from research firm Mintel, which earlier this year reported that New Zealand and Australia have become top destinations for Chinese consumers seeking to buy food and baby products online.

The Mintel research found that more than a third (36%) of Chinese consumers who had bought imported products over the previous six months purchased food products online from both countries.

"With Australia and New Zealand both having reputations for their strong focus on natural ingredients, food and drink companies could see great success by tapping into Chinese consumers' healthy lifestyle, particularly within snacking occasions," commented Laurel Gu, Mintel's Research Director, at the time.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia, Mintel; additional content by WARC staff