Stars align for venison
22 June 2017
Stars align for venison
Venison farmers are pinching themselves at their good fortune. Prices have steadily increased in the last two years to an all-time June high of $9 a kilogram, carcase weight, for quality stags.
Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Dan Coup says a big drop in the number of deer being processed has undoubtedly played a big part in the strengthening of prices, but he adds that there are other important factors at work.
“Whether it’s the emergence of paleo diets, new culinary trends, or the new enthusiasm in Europe for summer barbecues, our farm-raised venison looks like the right product for the times,” he says.
“The United States is now the single largest market for venison, having recently overtaken Germany. This means the industry now has strong export markets in two of the world’s major currency zones.”
Venison marketers agree.
John Sadler of Mountain River Venison says, “the holy grail of the venison industry ever since I first became involved was to sell leg cuts into the United States. I think we are finally getting there.”
“We are reaping the rewards of 35 years of market investment,” says Duncan New Zealand’s Glenn Tyrrell.
DINZ venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson says more chefs and consumers are making ethical purchasing decisions. They like the fact that NZ venison is pasture-raised, grown naturally, without hormones, in a clean spacious environment.
A recent visitor to New Zealand was Jan Kunz of Luiten Foods, an active partner in a Cervena venison marketing trial in the Netherlands and Belgium. He says he sold 20,000 kg last summer, a novel time of the year to sell venison in Europe. Like the other partners in the Cervena marketing trial, Kunz is enthusiastically involved again this northern summer.
This trial is part of Passion2Profit (P2P), a Primary Growth Partnership Programme between the deer industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Wilson says the trial, now in its third year, is starting to embed the notion in the minds of chefs and their diners that Cervena is ‘now in season’ in summer.
“The fact that Tui Airlines, the second biggest Belgian-based airline, has put Cervena on its summer menu for business class is a strong example of this.”
Wilson says affluent consumers in Europe and the US are eating out more at premium casual restaurants where small plates and shared plates are fashionable.
“This style of eating with less formality is good news for NZ vension and Cervena, as there is less risk for the consumer if they are trying something novel like a summer Cervena dish for the first time. It encourages experimentation.”
The rise of paleo style diets also favours venison. “High quality protein produced ethically is important to people following this way of eating and they are willing to pay for it,” she says.
Then there’s the barbecue trend that’s sweeping Europe. Kunz is working with Jord Althuizen, the BBQ world champion and owner of Grillmaster, a business selling barbecues and recipes. He’s been on the Grillmaster stand with Althuizen at rock concerts where there was “great demand” for Cervena from the massive audiences, he says.
Silver Fern Farms general manager marketing Sharon Angus says she has noted a rise in the carnivore market, made up largely of males, who love meat and barbecues. At the other extreme, Kunz is working with Chicks Love Food to promote Cervena. They’re two extremely popular Dutch food bloggers with a strong social media presence, including 100,000 Instagram followers.
Growing sales of venison into new market segments, outside the traditional game season, have increased year-round sales of venison which is helping to flatten out seasonal variations in prices to farmers.
With venison production at its lowest in 20 years and less than half the level it reached 10 years ago, some may be question why the industry is putting so much energy into promotion.
“With farmers rebuilding their breeding herds, there will inevitably be an increase in venison production in the not too distant future,” says Coup.
“All the exporters involved in P2P are developing year-round markets, which we will need when the kill reaches 350,000, up from the 280,000 forecast for the current year. We could reach that level by 2019.”
Silver Fern Farms is expanding summer Cervena into Germany; First Light Foods has developed new markets in the US, Russia and the United Arab Emirates; Mountain River Venison is developing demand from high-end hotels in Shanghai and recently launched a range of new cuts into Sweden; Alliance Group is developing a new market segment in the UK; and Duncan NZ is continuing to build its strong position in the United States.
In addition, there is the commitment that they and their in-market partners are putting into the bridgehead they have made with summer Cervena in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“It is one thing to have fashions and trends going your way, but we also need to keep looking ahead and our exporters are certainly doing this,” says Wilson.