Research is to start soon on to examine consumers’ appetite for healthier, more nutritious New Zealand lamb and innovative new lamb-based products.
The research, which will see consumers asked for their views on fresh lamb, manufactured meat products and prototype health supplements, marks the first stage of a seven year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) called Targeting New Wealth with High Health involving New Zealand’s largest lamb exporter Alliance Group, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Headwaters Group.
The Targeting New Wealth with High Health programme, which was initially approved in January this year, aims to reach existing and emerging markets with a new class of premium lamb products with improved health qualities.
As part of this, the programme is also exploring the development of new packaging systems offering the potential to produce final consumer-ready packs at Alliance Group plants, therefore avoiding re-processing and adding more value to the product.
Murray Brown, general manager marketing at Alliance Group, says the programme forms a key part of the co-operative’s drive to move away from commodity production and target ‘new wealth’ markets with new higher value products.
“Consumer insight is the beginning of any food journey leading away from commodity production. The first stage of this programme is a better understanding of consumers at the intersection of red meat, nutrition and health.
“Our consumer work focuses first on creating value for New Zealand farmers, through targeting ‘new wealth’ in global markets.
“The programme builds on existing research to identify and understand target consumer groups and routes to market.
“This programme heralds a healthier future for red meat and New Zealand’s pastoral farmers. New health-focused premium products are the focus, including fresh and manufactured meat products and health supplements. Lamb products that are lower in saturated fat and higher in polyunsaturated fat and essential healthy Omega-3 oils are an early aim of the programme.”
According to Brown, the PGP programme is a response to the growing consumer demand for premium and healthy foods and products.
“It will tap into markets that are willing to pay a premium for these. These are initiatives that will create value across Alliance Group’s entire supply base.”
He says a large range of lamb breeders, finishers and research organisations will play a major role as the programme progresses.
“Our aim is to differentiate New Zealand lamb and ultimately improve returns for all farmers.
“We see real benefit here for all sheep farmers but we need more information about the market appetite for these premium products first.”
The programme also fits with the co-operative’s commitment to improve returns for its farmer-shareholders and the wider sector.
“This is market leading work to create a new segment for red meat products that will boost the prosperity of the sector, grow existing markets and identify a new wave of consumers,” he says.
Minister welcomes programme
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has welcomed the official start of the programme. The collaboration between Alliance, Headwaters NZ and MPI will help producers tap further into the increasing demand for premium and healthy foods and add value to New Zealand’s exports, he has noted.
“It will focus on producing premium lamb products from the entire carcase that are lower in saturated fat, higher in polyunsaturated fat and packed with healthy Omega-3 oils.”
The seven year $25 million programme has the potential to deliver an additional $400 million to the primary sector over 25 years. “It will build on our reputation as a producer of premium, healthy and innovative food and will deliver benefits to all parts of the value chain,” says the Minister.
Programme will provide greater returns across the value-chain, says MPI
MPI’s PGP acting director Michael Jamieson explains the programme has the potential to provide greater returns across the value-chain.
“This will reinforce New Zealand’s reputation as a premium, healthy and innovative food producer. It will also develop valuable insights, knowledge and expertise that can be applied to other New Zealand meat sectors, enabling extensive collaboration and information sharing. These are wider benefits enabled by the PGP.”
Headwaters New Zealand – a group of Alliance farmer shareholders is gearing up to provide trial animals for part of the programme, which focuses on how production systems can impact on consumer-health traits. The aim is to develop and prove production systems which are better for the farmer and the consumer and then roll them out to the wider industry.
Headwaters’ general manager Ian Hercus says: “Testing new farm systems is always challenging but it is exciting to work with a processor and farmers that are willing to take on a new challenge and blaze the trail toward higher returns in the sheep sector.”