Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Scott Champion, says this insight informs how the organisation works on the ground to boost sales of NZ origin beef.
“We use a three-pronged approach that gives consumers reasons to buy NZ beef ahead of other countries. We tell the NZ story – including environment and animal welfare aspects – and highlight our food safety systems, as well as the health and wellbeing attributes of NZ beef.”
Champion says the approach is well illustrated in Japan’s southern-most province of Okinawa, a region known for the longevity of its population and healthy diet. “It is little surprise to find that Okinawans seek out lean red meat and that NZ grass-fed beef is their preference.”
For the past 12 years, Beef + Lamb NZ and meat processor ANZCO have worked with popular Japanese retail and food chain San-A Co.
ANZCO Foods Japan president, Makoto Kinjo, says ANZCO had the technology to supply chilled beef to the Japanese market at that critical time. “It started with a very small volume, but sales have grown year on year and now ANZCO’s supply of grass-fed chilled beef to San-A accounts for a big part of NZ’s chilled exports to Japan.”
Kinjo says NZ beef has very strong support and brand loyalty in Okinawa because of its consistently high quality and its promotion as healthy beef. He adds that consumers recognise the eating quality difference between NZ and Australian beef. “For example, every NZ winter, NZ production is down but demand is at a peak in Japan. From time to time, San-A has to fill the gap with Australian beef. Consumers immediately respond to that and recognise it is not the same beef. We have an obligation to deliver top product every week and ANZCO has been working with farmers to make sure they can secure cattle every week and month of the year.”
For the past six years, Beef + Lamb NZ has also hosted a tasting booth at the Naha Marathon. The marathon attracts 30,000 runners annually and last year 400 kilograms of chilled NZ grass-fed beef was sampled by runners and spectators. Another promotional activity activity involves hosting educational seminars. Three seminars have been held in Okinawa in recent years, each attracting 100 to 120 potential trade customers, chefs, food stylists and media. In many cases, it is the first opportunity attendees have had to sample NZ grass-fed beef.
This popularity in Japan is underscored by the fact that the total value of beef exported was $3.7 billion in August 2015, up $197 million (5.6 per cent) compared with August 2014 according to Statistics NZ. Meat and fruit exports led the rise.
Beef exports continued to rise, up 46 per cent ($61 million) in August 2015 compared with the same month last year. The beef export season runs from October 1 to September 30.
“With one month to go in the 2014/15 beef export season, beef exports are at a new high of $3 billion,” international statistics senior manager, Jason Attewell, says. “So far this season, 404,000 tonnes of beef have been exported, and if we export at least 18,000 tonnes next month we’ll surpass the peak 2003/04 season for quantity exported.”
The US remains NZ’s top beef export destination this season for both value and quantity. Beef export values to the US have hit a record high of $1.6 billion (up 64 per cent) for the season to date, with quantities up 21 per cent compared with this time last year.
Beef export values to China continued to increase, up 88 per cent for the season to date, to $394 million, with quantities up 52 per cent compared with this time last year.
“International shortages, rising production, and a falling NZ dollar have contributed to this record beef season,” Attewell concludes.
Even as far afield as the UK, the National Farmers Union Scotland recently called on Tesco to increase the volume of Scotch Lamb going into its stores. This followed the discovery of signs in this mega retailer’s stores promising “The Best Scottish Lamb in Season” situated above shelves predominately stocked with NZ product.
The union explained the “deep felt anger” amongst sheep producers at the mixing of home-produced and imported lamb under a Scottish banner and challenged the retailer on why it was stocking NZ lamb when Scottish lamb was at peak season and the industry’s annual lamb marketing campaign was in full swing.
The union is also calling on Tesco to change its policy of producing minced lamb mixed from British and New Zealand meat.
And locally, red meat is still a firm beloved according to the statistics.
Nerine Zoio: email@example.com