Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Dan Coup believes
there is a huge amount of potential for New Zealand's deer
industry. Photo supplied.
Dan Coup's heart lies in New Zealand's primary sector.
Mr Coup in July took over as chief executive of Deer Industry
New Zealand, replacing Mark O'Connor, who stood down after 13
years in the position to run his family-owned investment
Less than two months into the role and Mr Coup is excited
about the opportunities for the industry, while being
realistic about the challenges it faces.
Born in Christchurch, he was a self-described ''city boy'',
growing up mostly in Wellington, although both his parents
grew up on farms.
After completing a degree in genetics and molecular biology
at Victoria University, he joined the New Zealand Dairy
Board, initially as a cost engineer.
He worked in a department that worked out how much the board
was going to pay dairy companies for the products they
The job evolved through a few different titles and phases of
the board as it moved towards its big restructure.
Prior to that happening, Mr Coup decided it was time for his
OE and he headed to London in 1999. Thanks to having an
English grandfather, he was able to get a work visa and got a
job in private health care.
Following marriage and the birth of the couple's first child,
it became apparent to him that London was not the place to be
with a young family.
His English wife had been to New Zealand a few times and she
was keen to shift, liking the idea of a slower, safer and
healthier lifestyle than in London. The family returned to
New Zealand in 2005.
He ended up doing some contract work for a consultancy firm
in Wellington, before being offered a full-time job.
It was a ''good way to get to grips with the Wellington
scene'' and he did all sorts of interesting consultancy jobs,
including some back in the dairy industry.
When the opportunity arose for a job at the Meat Industry
Association of New Zealand, as trade and economic manager, he
jumped at the chance as he was ''mad keen'' to get back into
the primary sector on a more fixed basis.
MIA is a voluntary trade association representing New Zealand
meat processors, marketers and exporters.
The headline role was around trying to ensure New Zealand
meat products could enter markets, protecting access to
existing markets and developing access to new markets.
He enjoyed his time at MIA and there was always something
happening but, after six years, it was time for a new
challenge and the position at Deer Industry New Zealand
(DINZ) had much appeal.
The deer industry had been a ''little corner'' of the red
meat industry. Within the red meat industry, he could see it
as ''a bit of an exemplar'' in terms of its ability to be
very proactive and to ''get on pretty well'' with each other,
both up and down, and across the value chain.
It was small, innovative and nimble enough that it could get
out there and make changes to the way it operated for the
better, reasonably readily, he said.
It was also a very young industry and those involved were
generally have-a go innovators and risk-takers, who had all
seen an exciting new opportunity and were keen to be part of
that new industry. In the youthful deer industry, the raw
material was only in the very early stages of being moulded
in terms of productivity and the potential was huge, he said.
Since starting the job, there had been lots of learning and
listening but also a ''fair bit of doing''.
Mr Coup was very excited about implementing a new growth
strategy called Passion 2 Profit which sought to lift profit
on venison by $2 per kg over 10 years.
The industry had been operating to date on the basis of
people being very passionate about their animals and
marketing the product, but it also needed to become more
methodical about profitability.
In many places, those farming deer were struggling to make it
add up compared with alternative land uses. They needed
assistance with prices, the tools and the systems.
Venison in many parts of the world where it was consumed in
large volumes was considered a game product and eaten during
the game season.
The product the New Zealand industry was marketing was ''a
lot better than your average game''.
The idea was to raise the product above game and make sure
people understood it was a premium product ''in the crayfish
category'' and suitable for consumption all year-round.
A lot more needed to be done to communicate market
requirements and customer expectations.
There was huge potential, in the terms of people and raw
''I'm very optimistic we can move forward and get the sector
back in a growth phase.''
The European markets would continue to be very important to
our deer industry. Europeans were familiar with venison,
enjoyed it and had plenty to spend relative to other nations.
China presented opportunities for venison. Velvet to China
was an important market. On venison, the issue was market
access. There had been huge growth of sheep meat and beef
into China and he would not be surprised, once market access
was resolved, to see the same thing with deer meat.
There was no question about his optimism for New Zealand's
primary sector. It was ''perfectly placed'' given the
demographic of the world and economic change. New Zealand
would succeed - what he was concerned about was the deer
industry being an ''important part of that equation''.
Mr Coup said the future of AgResearch's Invermay research
centre near Mosgiel was on his mind.
The site and the people that worked there had been part of
the deer industry ''from day one'' and had made a huge
contribution to it. Assuming AgResearch's restructuring
proposal should go ahead, DINZ would be seeking to work with
AgResearch to minimise the risks for the deer industry and
maximise the opportunities.