A trip to Southeast Asia reveals a disequilibrium in the fruit market. For some entrepreneurs, that could mean an opportunity.
(Cover Photo: Dragon Fruit | Tricia A. Mitchell)
Airplane turbulence is never a pleasant experience. Despite flying in a large Boeing 777 on a recent trip to Southeast Asia, the thermodynamics over the Straits of Malacca ensured that my coffee cup needed a lid all the way to Singapore. As the plane rolled to a stop and my world stopped shaking, I looked at my wife, smiled, and allowed myself to finally exhale.
The airplane door opened, offering a rush of fresh air and humidity. Having been dressed for autumn in Germany, my clothes began to feel like lead blankets as we exited the plane into Singapore’s perpetual summer.
After passing through a friendly and efficient border control, we shook off our jet-lag and entered Singapore’s metro network. The train cars were pristine. In a country where it is illegal to possess chewing gum and caning is a legal form of corporal punishment, the people have a strong incentive to keep things clean.
The monorail train quickly reached our destination and we stepped out into the streets. Suddenly, we noticed the food. Exotic smells and sights captured our attention around every corner.
It is no wonder. Singapore is strategically situated in the middle of 40% of the world’s international trade, offering the locals a wide variety of unique spices and produce that have been incorporated into the local cuisine.
The fruit, in particular, tested the limits of our imagination. Having never seen some of these foods before, I realized that there is a disequilibrium between Western and Asian fruit markets.
In the next few years, if trade protectionism is kept under control, oil prices don’t skyrocket, and refrigeration technology advances, we can probably expect consumer demand for exotic fruit to increase. Entrepreneurs who spot and act upon disequilibriums in supply and demand for novel foods like exotic fruit might rake a tidy profit.
However, the fruit business can be tough. Despite transoceanic shipment costs reaching record lows in recent weeks, it is still exceedingly expensive and environmentally unfriendly to move exotic fruit from one corner of the world to another. One reason is that fruit is made up primarily of water, making it excessively heavy. Another reason is the high probability that fruit will spoil when transported over long distances.
A recent entrepreneurial profile in the German news offered a solution to these problems: dried fruit. By puréeing fruit and then drying it into sheets, an enterprising individual could export the abundance of exotic fruit from the world’s most remote corners.
Certainly more research on the world’s exotic fruit disequilibrium is warranted. However, after having tasted the novel fruits of Southeast Asia, I would definitely be a customer — if the price was right.
Looking for entrepreneurial inspiration? Check out Google’s recent coverage of Indonesia’s ‘Durian Guy’. This enterprising individual tapped into global demand for durian by offering it online.