Gelista’s sweet breakthrough in the Asia market

05 Jun 2024
Delicious South Australian gelato has hit the shelves of supermarkets in China, with SA icecream and gelato maker, Gelista, delivering its first of what it hopes will be many containers of product to the Asia market. 

Chinese consumers can now enjoy Gelista’s coconut-based raspberry, mango and coconut gelato, which is geared to the global trend towards dairy-free and plant-based products made to the highest quality and safety standards. 

The deal with a major global supermarket chain will serve as a trial for Gelista in the China market, and if all goes well could be a springboard into other parts of Asia.

The breakthrough into Asia comes following years of research and investment by Gelista in readying itself for export. This includes attending international and inbound buyer trade missions through the Department for Trade and Investment (DTI), where they were able to gain deep insights into export markets in Asia and map out what they needed to do to become export ready.  
The road to export

Peter Cox, Gelista’s Founder and Managing Director, says, as a fourth-generation dairy farmer, he has always had an interest in export. 

“I’ve always had a passion to develop and own a South Australian brand and become an exporter.” 

Unlike his brothers, Peter didn’t go into farming, he studied accounting and then worked as an accountant for a diary exporter where he was able to learn the ropes of export.

Peter established Gelista in 2009, seizing an opportunity in the market to manufacture and supply premium wholesale gelato and icecream to restaurants and cafes in Australia.

In 2015, Gelista attended its first trade mission with DTI and Food South Australia to Singapore, followed by participation in a South Australian trade delegation to Japan in 2017. 

Although interest in Gelista’s products in Asia was growing, from attending the trade missions it was clear to Peter and his associates that the business still had work to do before ‘pushing the button’ on the export business.

“When we came back from those missions, we realised we had too much work to do back in Australia first. We didn’t want to rush in before having things in place,” said Peter.

“Six years later we have the right infrastructure, employment, professionalism and quality assurance. We’ve taken huge steps forward in six years,” he said. 

They also built and moved into new manufacturing facilities in Ridleyton in the state’s north-west, double the size of their previous plant, and hired a dedicated export and national sales manager, Jenn Yett, to respond to customer enquiries and continue to build on connections.
The breakthrough into China

Interest from the China market came from importers picking up on a conversation about Gelista’s gelato trending on Chinese social media in Australia. 

A great export opportunity eventuated, but there were still a few obstacles to overcome. One of those was around intellectual property and registering the Gelista trademark in China.

“To be an exporter, you need to know you’re not contravening trademark in market. We had our own lawyer helping us register our trademark in China, but we hit a roadblock,” said Peter.

“We reached out to DTI and through its TradeStart and Austrade offshore connections, they were able to connect us with someone with trademark expertise in China to expedite the appeals process,” he said.

“We are incredibly grateful for the help we received from everyone at DTI and their industry connections both in Australia and in China.” 
Plans for future growth

In terms of the future, Peter says steady, controlled growth is the aim. 

“For us it’s all about developing rapport with existing buyers rather than always reaching out for more,” said Peter.

“We’ve had steady growth over the past decade but not at the expense of existing clients or relationships.

“We’re incredibly appreciative of the backing we’ve received from our Australian customers over the last decade, who have respected what we stand for and embraced our products,” he said.
Key export learnings from Peter and his team

  • Be patient, buyers in different countries have different competing interests and challenges that we’re not always aware of.

  • Treat every enquiry with cautious awareness. Be professional, but don’t be in too much of a hurry to sign a contract. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Sometimes making the decision not to export is just as important as making the decision to export.

  • Always make sure you have your trademark registered in market.

  • Be great at home first, if you are a good company in Australia, you are good enough to export.

  • Don’t wait for everything to be perfect – if you wait for the perfect preparation to do the perfect thing at the perfect time it will never happen. Fail early, work out what’s not successful and adjust your strategy.