All of market's wants required

Blair Smith checks product at a Mayfull retail store selling New Zealand beef in Taiwan. Photo...
Blair Smith checks product at a Mayfull retail store selling New Zealand beef in Taiwan. Photo supplied.
New Zealand's red meat industry needs to have the ''whole package'' when it comes to market presence, robust systems, strong relationships and corporate respect.

That was one of the findings of Five Forks couple Blair and Jane Smith, the supreme winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, after a 16-day study tour of specific primary industry markets in Korea, Taiwan and China.

In a report, which they have released to the industry, Mr and Mrs Smith found that a higher level of in-market presence needed to be delivered.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand were doing an ''excellent job'' and carrying out roles that went ''well above and beyond'' the role it was funded for.

The couple believed that market work could be replicated with a mandate for further funding, or in combination with a heightened level of in-market leadership from either individual meat companies and/or a more dynamic ''New Zealand'' marketing arm representing meat processors and then supported by Beef and Lamb NZ.

''A quick sale based on price will never ever achieve a premium payment and erodes our reputation as a producer of quality red meat protein worthy of a premium,'' they said.

The meat industry needed to decide whether to build an underlying ''image'' of the New Zealand brand, or engage in direct consumer marketing of individual product brands.

''This decision needs to be made in a clear and concise manner. It is not sufficient to assume that the importers of our product will do this for us, in fact, at times, those that did not have a strong and engaged relationship with New Zealand processors simply did not appear to ''buy into'' the New Zealand story, let alone promote it,'' the couple's report said.

A stronger and potentially more unified presence in those markets might lead to a higher level of respect in those countries.

Volatility of supply and pricing were two major factors that needed addressing.

''These importers do understand that in pastoral livestock farming, a degree of seasonality will always be present.

''However importers, distributors and retailers find it incredibly frustrating and highly detrimental to their business relationships to have such a high level of volatility in pricing and supply.

''Restaurants cannot change their menus on a weekly or even monthly basis, and therefore may choose to take New Zealand red meat off the menu completely, as a form of proactive risk mitigation.''

More consistent pricing and supply would assist in building those relationships, hence the importance of industry rationalisation and a more collaborative approach within the New Zealand red meat industry as a ''crucial step'' towards that.

Both meat companies and farmers needed to ensure they knew exactly what customers wanted and then produce it to their requirements.

''We saw a number of New Zealand frozen lamb legs in meat retail stores in China. In general, Chinese people don't own ovens, only stove-top elements and slow cookers. Even if savvy marketing convinced you to purchase a lamb leg in Beijing, how would you cook it?'' the couple said.

The New Zealand meat industry needed to be cautious when referring to China as a ''low value'' marketplace that was purely interested in low-value cuts and offal-classed products.

''A key reason that these `off cuts' are so popular is that they fit well with the cooking style and food culture of China.

A common concern of importers in both Korea and Taiwan was the ability to source New Zealand red meat in competition with China.

New Zealand held a unique opportunity as one of the few nations with an ability to produce safe, sustainable primary produce through efficient utilisation of resources in an isolated, disease-free environment.

That, however, did not guarantee a premier place for its produce in today's ''increasingly global consumer's eyes'' and its positioning in offshore markets needed to be well researched, well communicated and driven by market demand, not production supply.

Robust traceability labelling would be required as a minimum requirement to achieve premiums in many markets, and the protection of New Zealand's ''genuine purity brand'' was of paramount importance to ensure respect and continued rapport in export markets.


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