New Zealand venison breakthrough in Sweden

Mountain River, a venison marketer and exporter, has launched a range of novel grilling cuts through one of Sweden’s leading restaurant wholesalers, Menigo.

Marketing manager John Sadler says Mountain River has been active in Sweden for 20 years, but this launch was different to what the company has done in the past.

“Instead of working through an importer, we are now working directly with a distributor who is as enthusiastic as we are about New Zealand venison,” he says.

Menigo is a one-stop shop for food professionals with warehouses and food halls in Stockholm, Malmo and four other Swedish cities. It prides itself on providing products and services that are tailored to the requirements of each of its chef customers.

“I was first approached 18 months ago, by Richard Hofbauer, their meat buyer. He was looking for some restaurant-ready cuts at a good price point,” says Sadler.

“We invited him to New Zealand, showed him the industry and what we had to offer, and he liked what he saw. We then worked with Richard, our colleagues at the plant and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) executive chef Graham Brown to look at options that might work for Menigo.

“Not only did we develop some novel shoulder and leg cuts which were launched in Sweden in May, it was also a great for establishing a partnership. We’re now one of Menigo’s key suppliers.”

He says the frozen cuts, all of which are suitable for grilling, are being actively promoted as New Zealand farm-raised venison to Swedish restauranteurs by Menigo’s sales team. In parallel, a series of launch events have taken place at leading Stockholm restaurants.

“At these events, Graham Brown has worked with chefs to perfect the cooking of the cuts and to gauge the reaction from paying customers. The first-hand feedback we have been getting from customers and chefs is allowing us to fine-tuning the selling message as we go,” says Sadler.

“The next step will be to build demand in the Swedish autumn/winter game season. Graham Brown will do some chefs’ academy workshops, further events with restaurants and also refresh the training of the sales teams.”

DINZ venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson says DINZ helped fund elements of the launch from its European key account programme. She says this provides support to each of New Zealand’s five venison marketing companies for promotions – with a current focus on developing and retaining key accounts at a time when venison supply is tight.

“Eating reindeer is part of the Swedish culture. While eating grilled venison in summer is unusual, their chefs are innovative and have responded well to the launch,” she says.

“In addition, some of the most innovative contemporary cooking is now coming out of Scandinavia – chefs around the world look to them as trend setters.

“Mountain River is continually evolving their portfolio of products to suit customer needs and the building blocks are now in place for them to expand their sales into Sweden over the next few years as venison production increases,” says Wilson.

“From an industry point of view this is a good diversification, creating more year-round demand for branded New Zealand farm-raised venison, outside the Eurozone.”

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