Venison marketers focus on US retail

Venison marketers focus on US retail

Monday, March 29, 2021

Venison marketers and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) are focussing most of their market development efforts on the United States in 2021.

“Pre-Covid, sales there had grown to the point where the United States was our largest year-round market for chilled venison. Now, we are aiming to grow sales at retail – in bricks and mortar stores, as well as on-line,” says DINZ venison marketing manager Nick Taylor.

“Our chilled venison sales are of premium cuts sold to restaurants – demand that was largely stopped in its tracks by the pandemic. The initial retail focus is largely on ground venison, to get shelf space and to familiarise customers with venison as an option.”

Taylor says nearly $NZ1 million will be spent on marketing and promotion in the United States this year, jointly funded by DINZ, venison marketing companies and MPI via the Passion2Profit initiative. In addition, DINZ invests nearly $400,000 a year on a 50:50 basis through its joint promotion fund into individual company promotions. Some of this spend will also be in North America.

“The United States has been selected as a focus because consumers there are already familiar with venison. Also there is growing interest among American consumers in exotic and novel meats, especially those that are perceived to be naturally raised. For example, retail sales of bison meat have been increasingly in recent years.”

He says venison marketers have solid relationships with importers in the United States. While this makes it easier to get traction in the market, he says there are significant challenges launching new products in supermarkets and other stores during Covid.

“Sales reps can’t make store visits and in-store tastings are still out of the question. And while the Covid vaccination programme in the United States is ahead of schedule and restaurants are starting to reopen, there are still significant stocks of premium meat in storage in the USA that will need to be cleared before significant new orders come through.”

Taylor says he remains optimistic and takes heart from recent retail sales figures from the US that show a significant increase in venison volumes in the last 12 months. But he points out that most of the market development work now underway will take time to bear fruit.

“Also our thoughts go out to our friends in Europe – one of our major markets -- where the public is having to endure continued Covid restrictions and lockdowns. Understandably – with so much uncertainty – the companies are reluctant to put any timeframe on when venison prices to farmers will return to pre-Covid levels.”

DINZ advises farmers to talk to their venison marketing company about its plans for the traditional European chilled season. Some of the companies will be offering minimum price supply contracts for this market.

“Because deer farmers have traditionally be able to bank on getting good prices during the chilled season, they can target getting venison animals away for shipment to Europe during September and October, if that fits with their farm system.”

Photo: Ground NZ venison as marketed by US gourmet meat supplier Durham Ranch