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Herrick's Turkish Practice Group Strikes Again: Notes to Food and Beverage Companies Looking to Expand Internationally

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On June 30th Herrick Feinstein proved support for the Turkish-American Community with another event, New York International Food & Beverage Conference. Professionals from the food industry came together to discuss the most recent trends in the sector and their professional experiences as well as recommendation on entering the U.S. food market. Leading individuals who have been a part of the U.S. Turkish/ Mediterranean food sector such as Dr. Zeki Durak, Birce Ege and Cetin Amato gave speeches that provided handful notes on the food retail business in the US for current and potential Turkish businesses looking to expand overseas.

America is a huge market for food and beverage, yet foreign companies who are looking to expand in the US need legal counsel as doing business has certain restrictions and procedures that is difficult for any new comer to grasp when first entering the market. However, once you know the rules it's easier to work with them but in order to win, working with the right professionals who are familiar with the market and legal procedures, is key.

Barbaros Karaahmet, the Managing Partner of Herrick's Istanbul office, who gave the opening remarks, is among the lawyers who carry the honor of representing the Republic of Turkey in America. Herrick is not only qualified but also willing to help Turkish Entrepreneurs in entering the US food and beverage industry with the firms' Food and Beverage Practice Group, which has extensive experience in representing restaurants, food distributers and importers. As Karaahmet mentioned, companies need good counsel in entering this new market, Turkish businesses that want to do business in the US and American companies willing to enter Turkey can benefit from Herrick's long standing professional legal experience in both countries.

Dr. Zeki Durak, one of the main speakers of the conference in New York, touched upon a significant concept that new businesses should be careful on when entering the American market; FDA regulations. Regarding this matter, similar to many others when doing business overseas -- working with the right professionals is the condiment that brings successful results.

Cemil Ozyurt's speech gave detailed information on the global food and beverage industry. As Cemil rightly framed Turkey as a major agricultural producer, which stands out especially in terms of having the advantage of easy access to raw material, his remarks emphasized how there is still room for expansion and growth. The food and beverage industry in Turkey is becoming more advanced every other day and trade in this sector is predicted to increase in the upcoming periods. Sustainable seafood, noodles, quinoa and ethnic inspired foods are among the items that currently set the trend in the rapidly growing sector.

Birce Ege, from Krinos Foods LLC was one of the most informative speakers on how to be a part of the US food industry with her experience in the Mediterranean food market, import and export. Birce Ege mentioned how when she started at the company in 2000s after finishing school in the US, Uludag Soda (gazoz) ironically was the only Turkish product for retail at American stores. At the time Birce entered Krinos, she was a chance for the company wanting to import Turkish foods, as someone having the necessary familiarity and recognition of Turkish brands from her childhood, growing up in Turkey. Following her involvement, Krinos had the opportunity to expand, little by little, with exclusivities and now has 13/14 Turkish companies that they represent accordingly.

Cetin Amato from Milas Foods, CEO of an entrepreneurial company which is today 5 years old, mentioned how Hamdi Ulukaya who now is the owner of Chobani Yoghurts, one of the most popular yoghurt brands in the US and a great inspiration for young entrepreneurs, similarly started his career exhibiting in booths. Highlighting the trends in the market and giving recommendations to incomers, Amato mentioned how there is great support from the Turkish government and export associations for food shows and marketing expenses. Describing the process; using the metaphor of "running a marathon rather than a 100 meter run", Amato also acknowledged how even though investing in promotions and advertising may seem costly for firms, that cost is both necessary and rewarding in the long run where certifications receive customer attention.

One of the take-aways from the New York International Food and Beverage Conference was that there is a big potential in Turkish products, quality and flavor wise, to expand in the American market however there is still a long way to go and progress to be made. One after another, speakers mentioned how 90 percent of the products go to other than Turkish stores, where people love their taste and their prices seem reasonable. Yet, one thing that the attendees continually referred to was the concern for packaging, problems such as the products not having nutritional facts in English on their packages.

An advantageous strategy in the food domain could be identifying a certain niche in the sector and targeting that -- as Cetin Amato mentioned; convenient healthy food could be the ultimate example to an aforementioned strategy as demand for healthy food is on a seeming rise globally. The brainy entrepreneur should watch out for different packaging and marketing techniques along with different uses for common products.