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SYDNEY-A Mojo Australia team sent to educate the Taiwanese about Australian food ended up getting some culinary cultural shock treatment themselves.

The team, in Taipei on behalf of the Australian government's export program, was treated to a local delicacy that taught them much about Taiwanese tastes.

The drink: "swallow's spit." Clear and syrupy in appearance and with brown flecks, swallow's spit is "made from selected top-quality birds nests. [That] explained the brown spots, white fungus rich in protein, numerous vitamins, amino acids and trace elements," said Gawen Rudder, Mojo director of corporate affairs, who was part of the team visiting Taiwan.

He added that the Taiwanese believe the ingredients are "capable of restoring equilibrium and [are] beneficial to nerves, lungs and skin."

The incident was a good learning experience, if not a mouth-watering one, for the Australian admen, just finishing up a four-month "Clean Food" campaign.

The effort aimed at Taiwanese companies and consumers was funded by the government, the Australian Meat & Livestock Board, Australian Wheat Board and major food companies including Goodman Fielder Ltd., Kellogg Australia, Arnott's, Kraft Foods and Sara Lee.

Other regions, such as New Zealand, Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia, have promoted their homegrown foods for years in Asia on a "clean, fresh and even green" platform, Mr. Rudder said.

But what might be clearly understood in our Western culture can mean something entirely different in Asia, he said.

While Westerners generally don't turn to food for its healing attributes, foods with purported pharmaceutical properties are a natural part of life in Taiwan, he said. It's "a longstanding Asian tradition of eating food strange to Western tastes for health and vigor," what Mr. Rudder called "food-aceuticals."

Therefore, Asians are looking for the best of both worlds-convenience and nutrition, he said. "We are not talking about scientifically measured nutrition. We're talking about a more Confucian .*.*. pharmacological nutrition" involving food with supposed spiritual and healing properties.

As a result, the Mojo team skewed its campaign away from "the fastidious factories and the purified processing of Japanese and American-origin products," he said. Instead, it presented the image of the "warmer, more natural, even friendlier products of Australia" to tap into the Taiwanese desire for food that draws strength from its natural origins.

A TV spot that ran in Taiwan showed the healthy growing conditions where various kinds of foods originate-corn in a field and cows in a pasture. Created in conjunction with FCB/Public, Taipei, which like Mojo is part of the Foote, Cone & Belding network, the advertising positioned Australia as the country with "the clearest water, the purest air, the warmest sunshine."

The team apparently learned their lesson well. According to research just completed, the campaign, which ran for four months ending in October, achieved a 95% increase in consumer awareness of Australian food and produced a 50% sales increase.

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