With marketing collaboration at the implementation planning stage, New Zealand venison could potentially be showing the way forward for the export meat industry.
As part of the Passion2Profit (P2P) programme, which is about creating more value for the deer industry, the five largest venison marketing companies are working together to design an extended Cervena™ marketing programme, beyond the current programme in North America and Australasia, Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) chief executive Dan Coup confirrmed to delegates at this week’s annual Deer Industry Conference.
“The work is not yet complete, and it’s not yet agreed, but the companies are contemplating a new launch of Cervena,” he confirmed.
The relaunch will incorporate a stand-alone brand that can be produced by all of the participating processors – which include Alliance, Silver Fern Farms, Mountain River Venison, Firstlight Foods and Duncan & Co – and will initially target one or two small markets in Europe or China positioning New Zealand venison as a premium, year-round protein supplied exclusively to high-end distributors.
“The proposition looks attractive because it holds the potential for us to pool our resources and throw the industry’s full weight behind a strong brand – it gives us the greatest prospect of creating premium value for our venison,” said Coup. “We are working hard with our marketers to take this project from concept to reality.”
Work has progressed on the initiative, despite a pending Primary Growth Partnership funding application for the overall P2P programme. The latter will create strong linkages through to on farm practice from the market side, Coup explained, and has a focus on lifting animal weights earlier than the current average and lifting quality perceptions for product and also animal husbandry and environmental stewardship.
The goals set for profit gains are for on-farm production to lift by $2.37 per kg and from market $2.50 per kg from venison.
Agreement and commitment to Cervena re-branded activity
The conference featured presentations from the marketing managers for Alliance, Silver Fern Farms, Mountain River Venison and Firstlight Foods, demonstrating their agreement with and firm commitment to the Cervena re-branding activity.
Alliance venison marketing manager John Rabbit talked about friends – “old, new and special.” The old friends are in traditional markets for New Zealand meat, including venison, such as Germany, UK and the US. New friends are found in the emerging markets such as China and India, while special friends are “neither old nor new but definitely needed.”
The Alliance venison team has been celebrating the recent listing of both of its venison plants by the Chinese authorities – a market the processor has been working in for the past 15 years.
China was a particular theme of discussion through the marketing session, but Rabbit was also enthusiastic about India, which he believes also has great potential for New Zealand venison. Every conversation he had with buyers in a recent visit to the market started with lamb, but later turned to venison, he said. Silver Fern Farms general manager marketing Sharon Angus pointed also to the Middle East, where her company has had success with its premium Reserve Beef brand and in Asia and Hong Kong with Silere merino lamb.
All four presentations expressed the need for commitment to the programme, the need to work with consumers – or “from the plate” as Sharon Angus put it – through digital media, the need to target niche markets with a premium product and also the need for product integrity, especially following the European “horse-gate scandal”.
“For Alliance, operational excellence is now our competitive advantage,” said Rabbit.
Mountain River’s John Sadler talked about his company’s experience of targeting niche markets in foodservice in the US and also retail in Sweden, a traditional year-round venison market. He believes that China, although very small in terms of New Zealand venison exports at present, could present a number of “ultimate niche markets”, but will take some time to establish.
That fact that was also alluded to in a later presentation from Professor David Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing for Imperial College, London who commented that: “One size most definitely does not fit all.”
Sadler believes that lack of investment in marketing to date has been a failure for the industry. “Industry as a whole has to think long-term not just about the price on the day.”
Rabbit is a “big advocate” of the NZ Inc approach. He pointed to examples of collaborative marketing efforts in which Alliance has a stake such as New Zealand Farmers in the UK or the New Zealand Lamb Company in the US, that have worked well for participants.
The outcome achieved by the venison marketing group may be a template for others, he believes. “It’s time for something new and time to get on with it.”
While agreements are being worked on, along with the implementation strategy, DINZ venison marketing manager Innes Moffat is currently in Europe and Asia talking to potential partners.
David Hughes gave an overview of global food marketing trends. He congratulated the deer industry for starting to build relationships with Chinese customers and warned of the predicted increasing volatility of world meat prices, which have already been severely impacted by volatile grain prices. If prices continue to trend higher it may curtail the discretionary spend available for luxuries, he said.
“The long-term looks really, really good, but it’s going to be a rocky road getting there,” predicts Hughes.