Thursday, May 19, 2022

Industry cautiously optimistic as venison rebounds

Venison companies are reporting a recovery for the US and China retail markets as they predict a spring peak schedule of $9 a kilogram.

Foodservice in North America and Europe have also contributed to the higher prices and the optimistic outlook for spring.

But it is not an exact science Andy Duncan of Duncan New Zealand cautioned.

“Uncertainty of currency and cost inflation means we can’t be 100% sure of where it will go,” Duncan said.

Underlying the guidance is more evidence the market recovery is under way.

Late April farm gate prices for venison animals at $7.95-$8.05/kg were 50% above the April 2021 average national published schedule and on par with the five-year national average of $7.96/kg.

It is a fine balancing act and venison companies are wary of putting additional price pressure on their customers and stress the need for a steady build to sustainable prices.

“We are wary of creating a non-sustainable boom-bust cycle with restaurant menu placement being a critical stability factor,” Silver Fern Farms’ (SFF) Dave Courtney said.

Work is under way by the companies on market diversification, including growing the US and Chinese retail programmes. 

This is supported directly by Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) through the Market Innovation Fund and Passion2Profit Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) and DINZ staff working alongside venison companies to boost demand with the key accounts.

Venison companies are also working hard to get product to market amidst global shipping, logistics and covid-19 disruption, along with uncertainty created by the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, more than 6000 retail packs of Alliance Group’s NZ venison have been sold in China since the start of the year, results that Alliance and its in-market partner Grand Farm are “very pleased about,” Alliance Group marketing manager for Asia Ethel Wong said.

The first two retail items, venison rolls and brisket cubes, were added to the Grand Farm range on jd.com, China’s second-largest ecommerce retailer, at the end of December 2021, in activity supported by the DINZ Market Innovation Fund.

“In the first month more than 400 packs were sold, which is very good for a protein that not many people in China eat and for the relatively high retail price compared to beef and lamb,” Wong said.

The 300g pack venison rolls are retailing at the equivalent of $11.20 and 500g packs of brisket cubes at $15.70.

The meat roll is a familiar format for Chinese consumers and is used in traditional hot pot cuisine where the rolls are dipped in boiling stock with other ingredients.

It uses venison extracted from the flaps and brisket that is compacted in a labour-intensive process in China by Alliance Group’s further processing partner.

It is then sliced thinly to a one-millimetre thickness, with seasonings added during the processing for additional flavour.

The Alliance and Grand Farm team has been hard at work to find new products that will resonate with Chinese consumers, Wong said.

Supporting the launch was a page on the jd.com ecommerce website, which emphasised the NZ venison origin, top-quality deer breeds and NZ’s grass-fed production practices.

Another two packs, venison leg meat that can be sliced and diced at home by the consumer and leg cubes, were introduced to the range last month.

These are the first four of nine new products planned by the co-operative.

The four products have since expanded into two independent retailers stores in five cities: Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, Dalian in Liaoning Province, Nanning City in Guangxi Province, Luzhou in Sichuan and Sanya in Hainan.

A further five new Pure South venison products are also planned for launch.

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