Friday, July 1, 2022

New B+LNZ role a challenge and an opportunity

Kit Arkwright was recently appointed chief executive of Beef + Lamb NZ Inc, taking over from Rod Slater, who retired after 27 years in the role.

Kit Arkwright wants to ensure his team can continue to deliver success for the industry.

Kit Arkwright was recently appointed chief executive of Beef + Lamb NZ Inc, taking over from Rod Slater, who retired after 27 years in the role. Colin Williscroft reports.

Following in the footsteps of someone like Rod Slater can be something of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand you’re inheriting an organisation and brand that’s in good heart and a household name, while on the other, there’s some big shoes to fill.

For Kit Arkwright, he sees challenge as well as opportunity.

He does not think it will be difficult to succeed Slater, but it will be humbling.

“If you look at Rod’s track record, he has delivered success after success, whether it’s the Quality Mark, the Iron Maidens programme, Steak of Origin or the Glammies, these initiatives have made B+LNZ a household name, so stepping into and being the custodian of that legacy is humbling, a little bit daunting but in a good way,” Arkwright said.

“I’m looking forward to taking on and crafting the new era of Beef + Lamb (Inc), but very much in the same vein as what Rod has set up.”

Arkwright, who held marketing management roles with the organisation prior to taking on the top job, says it was hugely helpful working alongside Slater for a few years to prepare him for his new role.

“I really tried to be a sponge from him in many respects, just absorb all those years of experience in the role, not to forget this was his second career after a hugely successful career working with Sir Peter Leitch at The Mad Butcher,” he said.

“What he’s left me is really a blueprint or formula for the organisation to follow.

“Not only getting Kiwis excited about the product but also, and equally important, that the industry gets excited about what the organisation is doing, making sure both those two things tie together.

“I’d like to think I’m going to bring some new ideas to the table, but there is a successful blueprint and it’s about building on that.

He sees one of his key roles as fostering an environment where the people around him can thrive.

“What I want to bring is to create that environment where (people) can continue to deliver success for the industry,” he said.

Before arriving in NZ about four years ago, Arkwright worked in PR for British horseracing promotional body Great British Racing.

He says there are parallels between the two organisations.

“Great British Racing really fulfils quite a similar role to what Beef + Lamb NZ Inc does,” he said.

“They are essentially a marketing body. Their task is to market the sport at a generic level to the British public.”

He says B+LNZ Inc is essentially the red meat industry’s marketing body.

“We’re the industry’s shop window. It’s our role to present that shop window in the most appealing and effective way possible to get people to come into the metaphorical store and purchase the product,” he said.

That’s distinct from B+LNZ Ltd, the farmer body in Wellington, which he says has a much wider remit in what it’s trying to achieve.

“But naturally there’s some crossover, particularly in terms of a comms perspective. We’re making sure we’re sharing what we’re hearing, seeing if there’s an issue or an opportunity arising, seeing that we’re taking a collaborative approach to that,” he said.

“My role is to continue to foster that relationship between the two industry organisations. We’ve got good lines of communication and we want to work together to ensure that it continues.”

Arkwright sees a bright future for NZ beef and lamb in the UK.

“Speaking anecdotally as a Brit and someone who used to live there rather than drawing on any specific insights or research, the concept of seasonality with food (for consumers) in the UK does not exist,” he said.

“If you want strawberries in the middle of winter in December, you get strawberries.

“They’re not British strawberries, they’re probably Spanish but you get them. 

“There isn’t that concept of seasonality, so off the back of the free trade agreement I think the supply of NZ red meat will complement that year-round demand British consumers have.”

NZ red meat, particularly lamb, already has a strong reputation in the UK, he says, and that will only improve when more people try the NZ product.

“We know that when they’ve got their NZ leg of lamb in the oven they are going to have a great eating experience, and that the reputation of the NZ product and the Kiwi farmers who produce it will only increase,” he said.

“There’s obviously been a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing on social media channels between some of the British lobby groups, but I don’t think that’s going to register on the vast majority of British consumers’ radars.”

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