US distributors rate NZ brand highly

Enjoying their trip to New Zealand last year are (from left) Marx Food chief executive Justin and his father Frank Marx, of Seattle. They are in New Zealand again to talk to Silver Fern Farms' suppliers. Photo by Marx Food.
Enjoying their trip to New Zealand last year are (from left) Marx Food chief executive Justin and his father Frank Marx, of Seattle. They are in New Zealand again to talk to Silver Fern Farms' suppliers. Photo by Marx Food.
Silver Fern Farms' (SFF) United States distribution partner Marx Foods chief executive Justin Marx, of Seattle, Washington, on the United States West Coast, will speak at a premier selection beef day for suppliers at the Finegand meat works near Balclutha tomorrow.

Marx Foods is a fifth generation family business, which has been in the meat and livestock business as far back as long as Mr Marx can trace.

''We distribute nationwide and sell direct to distributors, restaurants, retailers and direct-to-consumer online via a retail store and two eCommerce platforms, one of which is NewZealMeats.com, a site that we developed just for Silver Fern Farm's premium red meat products,'' he said.

In an email interview with Southern Rural Life, Mr Marx said he had been buying SFF products for about 12 years, with a move to the prime Angus range about five years ago.

They started buying Silere Alpine Origin Merino last June.

''Silver Fern Farms is an important supplier to us, our relationship with them feels very close to a partnership.''

He and his father, business partner and company president Frank Marx are in New Zealand until mid-February mainly to meet farmer suppliers and SFF executives, something they do every January. In addition to spending much of their time in Otago, they will also visit Christchurch, Auckland and the Bay of Islands where they plan to go sailing and fishing.

He said they wanted to learn as much as they could about SFF, the farmers, the livestock and the production, so that they could share that story with their customers.

''My father and I have seen a lot of operations and can say with certainty that New Zealand farmers in general, and SFF farmers in particular, are world class.

''SFF is obviously very focused on producing a top-of-the line product and they have already done that.

''Their intense focus on quality and inspired brand development work creates a tremendous amount of value in the marketplace.''

He was keen to see and understand the SFF's Eating Quality (EQ) System.

''With their EQ programme, they are building an enormous feedback loop that is going to make their product get better and better over time.''

In addition to talking to farmers, he would be talking to SFF executives.

''As far as things that we want to see improved, of course there are things that need to be fine-tuned and we'll have some meetings in Dunedin to explore how to take the programmes and relationships to the next level.''

He said American perception of New Zealand products was that its reputation was one of purity, honesty and hospitality and that reputation also carried over to food.

''American consumers that have visited New Zealand would probably give New Zealand very high marks for animal welfare and sustainability.

''They have driven the countryside and seen how the animals live an idyllic, pastoral lifestyle.

''This does matter to Americans.

''That the product is from New Zealand can go both ways.

''On the one hand, brand New Zealand is strong from a food safety, purity and quality perspective. On the other hand, some Americans are inclined to eat foods that are produced closer to home so the distance-travelled issue can be a negative for some consumers (that's why we buy carbon offsets for product sold via NewZealMeats.com).

''If you take the US vs foreign part out of the equation and compare New Zealand's reputation to other countries, I think that New Zealand compares extremely favourably.''