The premium brand has enjoyed the respect of chefs and food service professionals in particular but supply issues, as in the broader beef industry at certain times of year, have been the challenge to address.
The brand’s board has addressed the issue by ensuring its distributors, Bowmont Wholesale Meats in Gore and Magill’s Meats in Te Awamutu, are aligned with export-focused processors who are capable of moving the non primal cuts from carcases into the wider export market.
For Magills that alignment is with Affco and Bowmont’s is with Clover Exports in Gore.
Paterson says the arrangement is working well, giving the board the confidence to go into the market and grow the brand’s sales further.
Hereford Prime chairman Laurie Paterson receives the runner up award for beef brand of the decade at the 2012 Steak of Origin awards from B+L NZ chairman Mike Petersen.
A new arrangement for the lower North Island has just been signed up with Cabernet Foods of Gladstone, providing product for distribution into Wellington and the lower North Island.
“One of the things we have been doing a lot of is spending time talking to everyone up and down the supply chain, understanding what their issues are and working to address them. There is not always enough of that in the meat industry.”
Each meat plant has a core group of Hereford Prime farmers around it who work together to ensure throughput can be maintained. As the brand volumes grow, and they are already up around 25% in the past two years, the challenge will be to ensure farmers capable of supplying stock through the winter–early spring period are on board.
Paterson says the relatively accessible specifications for supply – cattle that are 50% Hereford-British bred cross with a white face producing a carcass that is 240-300kg and with P grade fat coverage will help ease the passage for more farmer suppliers to come on board.
He notes in recent years there has been a slight move back from the leaner carcases that breeders sought through the nineties.
The expertise of the established farmers supplying to the brand has done much to maintain its recognition as a premium beef eating experience.
“Hereford Prime started as a result of beef being inconsistent, working from the chiller back to the breeder we have got consistency into it throughout and we have guys growing beef with a quality strike rate for steaks over 90%.”
He acknowledges the inroads the Angus breed has made across supermarket chiller shelves.
“But in a way that offers us an opportunity. We are a point of difference.”
He acknowledges the challenge, too, of getting Hereford Prime into supermarkets and still being able to maintain a premium price that can be done marketing into the food service sector.
However, the board is working on a secondary brand for retail opportunities that will be revealed in coming weeks.
“There is still room to expand further in the food service sector. We are not selling a lot into Auckland at present and we do get a lot of inquiry from chefs there.”
As a Southland farmer Paterson is supportive of the groundswell of farmer feeling for change in the meat industry and acknowledges efforts like Hereford Prime go some way to insulating farmers from export vagaries.
“Our success has been working with smaller, family-owned companies and the local trade offering a consistently high quality product.”