New Zealand venison exporters have started a trial to test the appetite of European consumers for Cervena venison in the summer grilling season.
The trial, which began in April, is part of the Passion2Profit (P2P) that was formally launched today at the Deer Industry Conference in Napier. P2P is a joint venture between the deer industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) under the Primary Growth Partnership programme.
“We are really excited that this pilot is underway. Launching Cervena in Europe has been talked about in the deer industry for many years, but it needs careful branding and substantial promotional support to make it a sales success,” says DINZ venison manager Innes Moffat.
“European consumers are already familiar with venison, but only as a traditional game dish consumed in the winter game season. Companies have tried to sell venison outside the game season before, but with limited success.
“Eating venison in summer off the barbeque or grill remains a really novel concept in Europe. To achieve market cut-through we need to make a clean break with the game meat tradition with its associations with slow cooking and rich sauces.
“By using the Cervena appellation in Europe for the first time, we are aiming to excite consumer interest in a new food item that is tender, natural, farm-raised and from New Zealand.”
He says Hanos, the Dutch food service company that is hosting the trial, has enthusiastically seized the opportunity to market what in effect is a new food category.
“Thirty six ambassador chefs in Belgium and the Netherlands will be serving Cervena venison on their menus over the summer. In-store and online promotions to chefs will culminate in a prize to the best Cervena chef to come to New Zealand to learn more about deer farming here,” says Moffat.
The Cervena is being supplied by First Light Foods, one of five leading venison exporters who have agreed to collaboratively market venison in new markets and market segments as part of the P2P strategy.
Moffat says the focus of the pilot is on chefs. At this stage, there are no plans to market Cervena in European supermarkets.
“As a result of the trial, we will know how chefs respond to a wide range of cuts and sales messages. This information, plus sales data and diner responses will be shared by Hanos and First Light with the other exporters and DINZ,” he says.
“This will help inform the development and refinement of a wider European out-of-season marketing strategy, with the objective of increasing year-round farmer returns for venison – a key industry goal.”
Moffat says DINZ has done the groundwork for many elements of the P2P initiative, so it is now in a position to move rapidly on several fronts now that the PGP contract has been signed and co-funding from MPI is assured.
“Until now Cervena venison has been marketed only in New Zealand, Australia and North America. In the United States — where, like Europe, venison is traditionally seen as a fall or winter dish — Cervena is now well established as a year-round menu item in selected restaurants,” he says.