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O’Connor Speech: Lean Meats export commendation

Damien O’Connor Speech: Lean Meats export commendation, Hastings

(You will be introduced by the MC Nici Haliburton)

John Atkins, Phil Guscott and the Lean Meats' team, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my pleasure to join you today. I am delighted to be here today to present Lean Meats with a Trade New Zealand Export Award.

This Export Award is in recognition of the company's outstanding export achievements.

The company was set up 15 years ago by a group of 100 entrepreneurial farmers in order to ensure they received the maximum value for their lambs in the international arena, in particular the USA. Today the company earns more than $20 million in export sales annually, with that figure continuing to grow steadily.

That's a marvellous result and a credit to everyone who has been involved in the ongoing development of this company.

Like many successful New Zealand export companies, you specialise in a specific niche ? in this case lamb food products.

Your strengths include the excellent quality of your chilled lamb products and your very strong customer focus ? this combination helps you to outsmart competitors.

From the outset Lean Meats followed a strategy of putting the customer first - finding out what they want and delivering it.

The US is by far your largest market. You have always had a presence in the market in order to get as close as possible to customers and potential customers ? from a two-person show in 1989 it now numbers more than 20 staff.

Your policy is to sell directly to the end user ? the retailers and restaurateurs.

In the early days, in true Kiwi fashion, John and his wife found those initial customers by tramping the streets, knocking on doors and talking up the virtues of Lean Meats' chilled lamb.

As those customers have consolidated and grown, so too has your business has grown.

The United States is not an easy market for a lamb exporter. American sheep flock is about 6.5 million compared with the New Zealand flock of 46 million sheep and each American eats less than 500 grams of lamb annually. That gives a great amount of room to grow but it also takes a lot of effort converting consumers onto lamb.

When Lean Meats wins business it doesn't sit on its laurels. You protect your market share fiercely. If a competitor is trying to muscle in on your business, you have systems in place to get you early warning and a plan of action.

You also have a strong focus on R&D, another characteristic you share with many successful New Zealand exporters, and an investment in securing your position in the international market.

With more than 250 suppliers now, Lean Meats has achieved an economy of scale which ensures your shareholders get a good return.

Lean Meats is part of the meat industry, one of the country's oldest industries and one which continues to be a cornerstones of New Zealand's economy.

Your export success is a credit to everyone who is involved with the company ? including your 250 suppliers spread throughout the lower North Island, the Hastings team and everyone working in the United States.

You should be extremely proud of your achievements to date.

It now gives me great pleasure to present this Trade New Zealand Export Award to Lean Meats, to be collected on the company's behalf by John Atkins

I also have four Certificates of Appreciation to present, in recognition of an outstanding contribution to Lean Meats' export success, to:

1. Atkins Sheep Ranch Inc ? Lean Meats' subsidiary in the US 2. Progressive Meats Ltd ? Lean Meats' our main contracted processor 3. Fern Ridge Ltd - a NZ based client 4. Global Group Plc - a UK based client

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