MIA Focus: Red meat sector open for 2019-2020 business

ANZCO Longdown lamb
ANZCO Foods' Longdown lamb has had very positive feedback from UK restaurateurs for its tenderness and eating quality, says Gartshore.

The red meat sector is open for business in the new 2019-2020 meat export season, which started on 1 October. Building on a record-breaking season last year, the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and its member companies have been busy preparing for opportunities in the uncertain world, both around the globe and at home.

John Loughlin
John Loughlin.

Speaking to sector partners in Wellington in September, MIA chairman John Loughlin referred to both the challenges and opportunities ahead for the $8.8 billion sector.

“These are times of challenge for the primary sector. But challenge brings opportunity,” said Loughlin. “We are committed to finding a sensible, responsible and practical way through the future and to capitalise on the opportunities that are created.”

In order to take advantage of any of those opportunities, the MIA and meat companies have been preparing for the 2019-2020 season, by investing in research for new product development and new technology, upgrading processing facilities and working on new sales channels.

New technology for Alliance

New plant manager Karen Morris at Alliance's Smithfield plant
Alliance is installing new added-value processing technology at its Smithfield plant, under the guidance of new plant manager Karen Morris, the co-operative’s second female plant manager and a long-time employee of the company.

Alliance Group is one of the companies to have installed new technology in readiness for the season. The co-operative recently announced it is investing over $1.2 million in new added-value processing technology for vacuum-packing and co-products at its Smithfield plant and is also improving its Dannevirke plant, which will increase capacity there by 20 percent and mean jobs for 35 more staff.

Earlier this year, it also announced a new $1 million value-add facility at Alliance Lorneville in Southland, including new lines for automatic slicing, dicing and mincing of products along with a range of modern packaging technologies, offering the co-operative the flexibility to provide a range of packaging options for its global customers.

New energy-saving technology has also been installed, in collaboration with EECA, at the Alliance Nelson plant in the form of new heat pumps to help carbon emissions and recycle waste heat from the plant’s refrigeration systems. It is also moving to LED lighting at the Lorneville, Pukeuri, Nelson and Mataura plants, after a successful introduction at Levin and Dannevirke.

The investments are another step forward in the food solution company’s transformation strategy and show the benefit of a strong balance sheet, says Alliance chief executive David Surveyor.

New look for Blue Sky Meats

Blue Sky Meats recently unveiled a new main brand – Blue Sky Pastures – and a strong first quarter performance of just over $3 million to shareholders at its August AGM.  Shareholders also learned more about the company’s new premium lamb sub-brand, Melrose Station. The lamb is grass-fed, antibiotic, hormone and GMO-free and sourced from a single farm in Southland.

In addition, Graves announced Blue Sky Meats has embarked on an ambitious upgrade to its plant infrastructure, with the largest investment a new $3.7 million wastewater treatment plant. It will also replace its ammonia refrigeration plant, introduce a new roading layout and replace bandsaws with new hand-sensing auto-stop saws amongst other health and safety-related investments.

On show at Anuga

Anuga 2019
Anuga 2019 is being staged in the Koelnmesse conference venue in Cologne, Germany. Photo: ©Koelnmesse GmbH.

Brexit will no doubt be front of mind for several New Zealand exporters and their customers meeting in the red meat halls of the enormous biennial Anuga trade fair in Cologne, Germany (5-9 October) – this year celebrating its centenary. Over 165,000 trade visitors are expected to attend the exhibition from over 190 countries, with over 1,000 companies exhibiting in the meat halls. This year, they will include in-vitro meat suppliers, which reflects the growth trend in plant-based and alternative proteins, according to the organisers, who add regionality, traceability and animal welfare are also important concerns for consumers.

Amongst those attending from New Zealand will be representatives from AFFCO, Taylor Preston and Silver Fern Farms.

AFFCO will be offering a number of further-processed products to specific channels at the show at its stand (E 110 in Hall 6), says the company’s group sales and marketing manager Mark de Lautour.

“Anuga is a fantastic opportunity to meet with a great number of our international customers – most of whom converge on the show,” he says.

Taylor Preston’s value-added business, Taylored Foods, is embarking on a new strategic direction following the appointment of new manager Mike Sander late last year.

“The business has solid core business based around its sous-vide cooking and will now expand into new cooked and raw products for foodservice in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Europe. The company will have representation at Anuga to sound out opportunities also for cooked and freeze-dried powder, broths and extracts,” explains Sander.

Nicola Johnson, Silver Fern Farms
Silver Fern Farms Nicola Johnson speaking at the Deer Industry Conference earlier this year.

Silver Fern Farms’ latest strategic initiatives and commitment to their Sustainable Chain of Care will be presented to its key customers from Europe, Middle East and China at a conference in Cologne aligned at the same time as ANUGA, says the company’s marketing group manager Nicola Johnston.

The event will bring the brand to life by show-casing its grass-fed red meat to key customers in their backyard, she says.

“This year, we have invited our customers to get closer to Silver Fern Farms, designing a uniquely Kiwi experience where we welcome them to our table to learn more about the place, the people and the passion that, we believe, sets us apart. Our commitment to, and investment in, sustainability, transparency, farming excellence and attaining the highest standards of safety and quality in processing, will all be in the spotlight this year. And, of course they will experience our delicious grass-fed red meat, with a menu proudly designed by one of Germany’s best Michelin-starred chefs – Daniel Gottschlich.”

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer and co-chairman Rob Hewett will present the company’s progress on key strategic initiatives, in addition to providing an update on the sales outlook for the new season and sharing how Silver Fern Farms is responding to global trends and market opportunities.

New products and channels

Processors and exporters are also exploring a number of new sales channels elsewhere and developing new added-value products for New Zealand foodservice and retail.

ANZCO Foods has three new product initiatives for the new season. The meat company is extending its premium Longdown range of New Zealand lamb cuts, which has been going into retail in the UK for many years, into the market’s £89 billion (NZ$171 billion) foodservice sector. ANZCO’s UK key account and sales representative Aaron Gartshore has been visiting high-end restaurants including Harrods and Gordon Ramsey’s Lucky Cat, to promote the range.

The feedback has been very positive, he says. “Longdown lamb is bred for tenderness and the chefs visited so far appreciate the eating quality along with the facts that provenance is known and the animals are raised free-range with strict animal welfare standards.”

The company has also extended its further-processed frozen gourmet Angel Bay range for retail to meet the demands of the ever-growing brunch market with a Breakfast Beef Sausage patty.  Made with New Zealand beef and a selection of spices, these patties add variety to the ever-growing demand for good breakfast foods.

ANZCO has also recently entered the pet category with its Great Nature NZ range of 100 percent natural pet treats. These are made from 100 percent locally sourced beef and lamb and made at the company’s specialist pet treat site in Canterbury. The range includes three products – beef jerky, lamb chips and lamb tubes – that are available in Pak N’ Save and New World supermarkets.

Alliance paying premium for high quality beef cattle

Alliance Group has announced its Pure South Handpicked beef programme is paying a premium this year for qualifying stock from any prime stock that meet the eating quality grade’s exacting standards.  The programme uses an internationally-credible assessment system to measure eating quality, with the qualifying beef – selected by specially-trained accredited graders – exported to markets willing to pay a premium.

This expands the co-operative’s Handpicked beef range, building on the success of its 55-Day Aged Beef product, which has won gold medals at the coveted World Steak Challenge over the past two years.

It is all part of the co-operative’s drive to capture greater value for its products in its global markets, says David Surveyor.

“Beef is a growing and important part of our portfolio and this is an exciting opportunity for our co-operative and our farmers.”

Greenlea Butcher Shop

Greenlea Premier Meat is using a new collaborative e-commerce initiative here in New Zealand to learn more about the sales channel, potentially taking it international. The online Greenlea Butcher Shop – www.greenleabutcher.co.nz – was launched in June 2017.

Value-add logistic and marketing coordinator at Greenlea Lee-Anne Turner says it has been a natural progression from the family-owned meat processor, which has partnered with Ovation for lamb and First Light Foods for venison.

“We’re delivering premium export quality beef, lamb and venison direct to the customer’s door within New Zealand,” she explains, adding all product is grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free and chilled and never frozen.

“With BBQ season coming, we are expanding our product range to cater to the growing constituency of BBQ enthusiasts. Watch this space,” she says.

Highlights from the latest MIA annual report

The MIA’s newly released annual report, is packed full of up-to-date information about the sector and its business during the season ending June 2019.

The report shows the value of the sector’s annual exports grew by eight percent in the year to end June 2019 to $8.8 billion, with the largest growth in China – partly due to the African Swine Fever outbreak in North Asia but also continuing strong demand for protein. China remains the largest market by value for red meat and co-products with $319 million exported to the country in June 2019, followed by the US and UK.

“China has taken more than half of New Zealand’s sheepmeat exports and beef exports to the market have increased by 79 percent in volume, overtaking the US as our largest beef market,” explains MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie.

“It’s also very pleasing to see we’re getting more bang for our buck off sheepmeat exports with value up six percent on last year, despite volumes remaining the same,” he says.

Highlights include:

  • Exports to over 117 countries, with 80% of total sheepmeat, beef and co-products exported to 10 markets
  • The value of exports increased by 8% to $8.75 billion in 2018-2019
  • Exports to China increased to $2.98 billion, 49% more than the previous year, making it New Zealand’s largest market
  • The US remains the second largest market, despite a 2% drop to $1.75 billion. It still accounted for 20% of exports
  • Combined, China and the US accounted for more than half of the industry’s exports in 2018-2019
  • The next three largest markets were the UK ($467 million), Japan ($363 million) and Germany ($302 million)
  • New Zealand beef export volume increased to a record level of 453,202 tonnes
  • Sheepmeat exports increased by 1% to just under 400,000 tonnes, but were worth 6% more at $3.8 billion
  • The value of co-products increased by 5% to $1.62 billion.

Copies can be downloaded at www.mia.co.nz.

This article appeared in Food NZ magazine (October/November 2019) and is reproduced here with permission.


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