The world market for New Zealand’s farm-raised venison is undergoing a period of change, with established markets evolving and new markets emerging.
Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says some important new markets have been developed as a result of active market development programmes by individual venison companies, or collectively by the five main venison companies, supported by DINZ.
“Demand from the United States has steadily grown in the last 10 years to make it our largest year-round market for chilled venison. In the last three years demand from China has developed which may make it a valuable complementary market to continental Europe. Other markets where marketing companies are developing niches include the Middle East, UK and Sweden,” he says.
“On the other hand there are changes that, as with markets for all food products, are unpredictable or outside our ability to influence.
“A sudden spike in demand two years ago from American petfood manufacturers for venison meat and bone meal and manufacturing grades pushed up prices to farmers by about $1 a kilogram. This was very much in the unpredictable category, arising from petfood companies seeking to secure supply for petfoods containing venison.
“Prices for petfood grades have since eased sharply, but venison’s place as an ingredient in premium petfoods looks reasonably assured. Consumers see venison as a positive in the diets of their pets.”
Northern Europe, particularly Germany, was the market on which the NZ deer industry was founded. It was – and remains – a highly seasonal market with a tradition of autumn and early winter game season demand. The game season still provides farmers with peak prices in September and October each year.
For many years, Moffat says, the industry has worked on developing other, non-seasonal markets, while building awareness in Europe of the attributes of our premium farmed product.
“This awareness-building continues, with a key influencer programme underway now. Currently our chefs Graham Brown and Shannon Campbell are hosting dinners for food writers and conducting chef seminars in partnership with importing and distribution companies in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden.
“It’s a big place. Many people still do not know about the superior taste and tenderness of New Zealand farmed venison. Nor are they aware that there are things you can do with it that you can’t do with other game items.”
That said, many European chefs and retailers recognise the quality of chilled New Zealand venison, which is underpinned by a good quality assurance story. However, market conditions there are currently subdued following poor sales of frozen venison at very high prices in 2018. This is reflected in schedule prices to farmers.
“Looking ahead, venison marketers are mindful that with climate change, winter in Europe is arriving later and is shorter than it once was. A shorter winter means a shorter game season and for New Zealand a continued emphasis on the development of new markets,” says Moffat.
This includes the opportunity to develop a market during the European summer for premium Cervena venison as a grilling item.
“Achieving this, along with exploring the potential market in China, is a key element in Passion 2 Profit (P2P), our Primary Growth Partnership programme with the government. After four years, 90 tonnes of Cervena is being exported into Europe during the summer, as against a target of 240 tonnes. We didn’t think it would be easy and we’re pleased that we still have the support of participating marketing companies,” he says.
Another P2P project, the development of a market for Cervena as a summer grilling item in Canada, kicked off earlier this year with a trial promotion in Vancouver. Moffat says this went well, but “it’s early days and the volumes are modest”.
Work by individual exporters has also created useful niches in other places, including the Middle East, he says. Demand in the US from both food service and manufacturers continues to steadily grow.
“The venison industry no longer has all its eggs in one basket,” Moffat says.