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In Fruit We Trust: Apple Growers Find Sweet Spot in China

When it comes to perishable goods in China, American farmers have spotted a major opportunity.


The Washington Apple Commission (WAC), based in the Pacific Northwest, has found success in using e-commerce to promote American apples directly to Chinese consumers.

The WAC has found Alibaba’s Tmall to be a powerful tool for getting consumer attention in China. Late last year, the WAC launched a one-hour live broadcast on Tmall of an apple orchard and packing facility that attracted 62,000 viewers at the time. Eventually, total views of the live broadcast and its recorded playback online climbed to 245,000 in the lead up to Alibaba’s 11.11 shopping extravaganza. Sales volume of the promotion was about $275,000.

“China is one of the top export markets for Washington apples, and e-commerce, while still a small percentage of the fresh produce-distribution chain, is growing,” said Rebecca Lyons, the International Marketing Director at WAC. “Chinese consumers want high quality and are willing to pay for it.”

WAC does not have its own Tmall storefront — its aim is to promote fruit abroad, not sell it directly — and uses China-based Sunshine Fruit to import, package and handle distribution needs through Tmall.

“Tmall offers a great opportunity to talk directly to consumers about the location and growing practices in Washington State,” said Lyons.

WAC plans to continue to work with Tmall to promote apples from Washington State and reach Chinese consumers. Its primary goal is to use Tmall as a visual platform, showing potential buyers where the apples are grown and how they’re packed.