World Class New Zealand: Cooking up a global business

She says she found herself an “overnight success” after 20 years of labouring over hot stove, but accomplished publisher, TV star, food writer and businesswoman Annabel Langbein strategically set out to redefine her brand in the late 1990s – move that positioned her for global achievement.
With TV show now screened in 84 countries and multimedia publishing company focusing on the New Zealand, Dutch and Australian markets, Langbein learned early lessons on doing business abroad, none more so than with her first big break into the German publishing market.

From tiny stand at the 1998 Frankfurt Book Fair set up to tout her Great Food for Busy Lives book, Langbein engineered meeting with large German publisher. “He came over with cigar and I said ‘I’ve got fantastic book and I’d love you to look at it. He flicked through the pages and within 30 seconds he said ‘I’ll take half million copies’.”

Langbein wasn’t keen to sell all international rights, negotiated to keep English sales and the German company bought 300,000 copies plus rights to another large concept. “I got paid quite lot of money,” she says, “then he went broke.”
The shock failure led to rethinking of her business model. Langbein says she hired consultants to work on her branding and systems and explored new ways of doing business in Europe and Australia. The result is highly successful team based in Auckland but selling her concept around the world.
New Zealand, she says, continues to be the best place to hone her products.

“I was looking at companies that were coming to New Zealand to trial their products whether it was tyres or whatever, because it was market that was quite defined and not too amorphous,” she told NZ Management. “Once I have modeled this in this market, what’s to stop me rolling it out around the world?”

She believes the future for New Zealand is as an exporter of premium products and says our success also lies in the global movement towards sustainability – Langbein sits on the Sustainability Council of New Zealand which campaigns on issues such as genetically modified organisms in the food chain.
But differentiation and continuous investment in your brand is key for any Kiwi business abroad, she says. “You can’t understand what really differentiates your brand without investment. And you have to keep on investing. It’s also important to remember it will never be easy – you will always come up against hurdles.”

Her multimedia approach has been major part of the brand’s success. “You can’t just make cookbook and put it on shelf – it will disappear,” she says. “Twenty-four thousand cookbooks are published year. You have to explore new avenues all the time – be fleet-footed and flexible. The people who will be successful are very good at communicating because to communicate well you have to be good listener. And to have good product you must be great listener.” M

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