22/11/2005 - 21:00

Japan sets Ball rolling

22/11/2005 - 21:00


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Aiming to beat the Japanese at their own game, local frozen noodle exporter Ball Noodles now plans to enter the US ready-meal market.

Japan sets Ball rolling

Aiming to beat the Japanese at their own game, local frozen noodle exporter Ball Noodles now plans to enter the US ready-meal market.

Eighteen per cent of the Hamilton Hill-based business’s noodle sales are in Japan, but US sales of its Western Australian wheat-based product have grown more rapidly, to the point where managing director Charlie Ball expects to make significant inroads marketing its own brand.

“Our distributor in the US has met with us in Perth and discussed a plan to value-add the noodles in Asia, then send them into the US,” Mr Ball told WA Business News.

The discussions have centred on capitalising on lucrative US ready-meal supermarket aisles.

Since opening its production facility in 2002, Ball’s US sales have steadily risen to account for more than 55 per cent of its $4 million annual revenue. The product is now considered the major competitor in the US to Japanese-made frozen noodles.

While still at the preliminary stage, the proposal is a unique opportunity to generate better margins, Mr Ball said.

To date, Ball Noodles has had limited experience with branding its own product, instead relying on distributors that include the 77-year-old Japanese Toho Corporation, supplying restaurants, eateries and other existing brands.

But the shift in marketing strategy should open more doors for Mr Ball, who founded the company on the back of experience in the property industry and an introduction to the Japanese market through his family’s tuna farming business in South Australia.

As an Australian manufacturer of Japanese noodles, the major selling point for Ball has been product authenticity, according to Mr Ball, with its partner in Toho and the use of a Japanese noodle processor considered key drivers for success.

It also employs a Japanese noodle technician at the production facility.

This knack for understanding its consumers, combined with what is considered by noodle experts as the world’s best raw material in WA wheat varieties, has enabled the enterprise to tap into a fast-growing niche, producing 4,000 meals an hour and shipping two container loads a week.

According to world retail figures, the market for frozen noodles grew at an annual rate of 16 per cent between 1992 and 1998.

Another potential growth prospect lies in the organic noodle market, with the company recently launching an organic udon product range, which is expected to flourish in the US.


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