New Zealand’s first chilled lamb has now arrived in China as part of a six-month trial programme.
Leading food company Alliance Group dispatched French racks to Shanghai following the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between China and New Zealand in March.
The products were processed at the company’s plant at Pukeuri (Oamaru) before being air-freighted to China for a high-end consumer in the retail and food service sectors.
Alliance Group has been working in China since the mid-1990s and is now the largest exporter of New Zealand lamb to that country.
David Surveyor, chief executive of Alliance Group, says: “This is a significant milestone for Alliance Group and our in-market partner Grand Farm, but also New Zealand agriculture.
“We are New Zealand’s largest lamb processor and exporter and the country’s only 100 per cent farmer-owned major red meat co-operative so it’s great news for Alliance Group and our farmer-shareholders.
“Chilled exports to China offer significant opportunities for the co-operative. Chilled products command a premium over frozen products so this fits with our business strategy of capturing more market value.
“We’re investing in creating new product forms and ranges that will be either produced from source or potentially further processed in the market to meet the growing demands of China’s food service sector.
“We’re also focused on understanding consumer tastes and getting better at matching our products and markets.”
Last month, the company took part in a five-day New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) China Immersion programme alongside its in-market partner Grand Farm.
The programme focused on supporting the company’s accelerated growth in the Chinese market and maximising the opportunities of working together with Grand Farm to extract value from the supply chain.
“The visit enabled Alliance Group to gain a greater in-depth understanding about Chinese consumers and food service sectors,” says Surveyor.
“This included immersion in a Chinese household, in restaurants and with chefs to learn exactly how to target customers live, what kind of products they are looking for and why. These insights, along with our experience in China, will help us over the course of this six-month chilled trial.”
Last year, Alliance Group dispatched a new range of market-ready retail packs to the country.
The lamb products, co-branded with Grand Farm are now available in China’s retail and food service sectors.
“This is a great news for Chinese consumers who will now be able to receive premium chilled red meat products from New Zealand,” says Surveyor.
Minister welcomes news
The news was welcomed by Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.
“The air-freighted consignments from Alliance Group and also Greenlea Premier Meats mark a significant step towards enabling permanent access for New Zealand chilled meat to China,” says Mr Guy.
“Chilled meat is a premium, high value and high growth product so this is great news for farmers, producers and the wider red meat industry. It’s also welcome news for Chinese consumers.
“These are the first of many more shipments expected to be exported to China as part of the trial, which is a big step forward for our work to expand access to China for a range of meat products.
“New Zealand produces high quality chilled meat, and this trial is an exciting opportunity to add to our already significant frozen meat exports to China. This is the kind of product that will end up in high-end retail stores and white table cloth restaurants.”
New Zealand’s frozen red meat exports to China represented $1.14 billion in trade for the year ended 31 March 2017.
The start of the trial adds to recent successes, such as the agreement of formal access for New Zealand bovine blood products last week.
The chilled meat trial initially involves ten New Zealand meat premises.
“The meat industry and MPI are working hard to ensure the trial is a success and access can be opened up to all eligible premises at the end of the six-month period,” says Mr Guy.
“The trial is another demonstration of the very strong positive relationship we share with China.
“The rapidly increasing air links with China will also help with this trade. Since 2012 the number of services Chinese airlines can offer each week under arrangements between our countries has risen from seven to 59.”