US restaurateurs given a taste of New Zealand Venison

Jun 15, 2023

US restaurateurs were given a taste of New Zealand Venison last month at their annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago.

All five of the New Zealand venison marketing companies collaborated at a New Zealand Venison stand at the huge trade show for North American food service. This gave a platform for their “closest importers” to showcase their products and meet potential new clients, explained chef Shannon Campbell, who was contracted by DINZ to prepare and cook venison on the stand.

Pictured on the New Zealand Venison stand at the NRA show: Shannon Campbell, US chef Erik Schardin (centre), with some of Sierra Meat’s team (left to right), Bernadette Flocchini, Carol Jerwick, Kate Castro and McKayla Ford.

Campbell created small tasting dishes using tender cuts of Denver leg for hundreds of visitors, some of the 55,000 food service professionals who attended from all over the US and internationally. Display cabinets also showed retail and chef-ready New Zealand Venison items from the marketing companies.

The importers included TerraPacific Marketing (for Mountain River Venison), The Lamb Company (Alliance and Silver Fern Farms), Fossil Farms (First Light), and Broadleaf and Sierra Meat (both Duncan NZ).

It was a “very positive experience” for all, Campbell reported, in what was a “perfect springboard for future USA activity.”

As well as coordinating the stand at the show, DINZ also arranged an evening gathering for the attending venison importers. The importers appreciated the opportunity to get around the table, helping to build their mutual understanding of the opportunities in the market, he said.

TerraPacific’s, Angus Cleland, noted the “positive sense of collective industry commitment to the mission to grow the size of the pie for the venison market in the USA, rather than simply competing over existing business.”

TerraPacific chose to “highlight the mild flavour and tenderness of Mountain River Venison leg cuts.  The versatility the product offers chefs a variety of applications and seasonal dish options.” said Cleland

Many who sampled the tastings were “visibly impressed”, and the TerraPacific team received “a good amount of follow-up inquiry, Shannon and Erik did an outstanding job!”

Terrapacific’s Angus Cleland (left) and Anna Marie Longo (right) on the New Zealand venison stand with Rhys Griffiths (centre).

As the largest food service trade event in North America, the NRA show “is a valuable opportunity for industry stakeholders and current or potential customers to connect over a busy few days,” said Cleland  adding TerraPacific is already planning its return next year.

Both Cleland and Duncan NZ’s general manager marketing and operations, Rob Kidd, commented the stand had been “well executed and well put together” by DINZ.

Kidd was in the USA with team Duncan NZ; executive chairman Andy Duncan, and marketing manager Chris Duncan who all attended the show.

The Duncan NZ team had a busy programme of meetings with existing and potential customers, making time to have a good look around the meat section of the impressive show. They particularly noted a markedly reduced presence of alternative meats this year.

“We noted that  across the North American region, restaurants were full and bookings were essential,” said Kidd.

Targeting US food service way to lift value and demand for venison, says Duncan NZ

Having diverse markets is vitally important for the venison recovery. As well as the push into US retail, targeted promotion in US food service market is “the fastest way to increase value and demand for venison,” Duncan NZ believes.

Andy and Chris Duncan pictured at the Deer Industry Conference in Ashburton.

For that reason, the venison marketer is focused on “maximising the value and volume of venison” sold into US restaurants, said Chris Duncan at  the Deer Industry Conference last month.

US food service spend is lifting as the market and consumer confidence recovers. There are the familiar challenges including labour, increasing costs and growth-limiting factors such as, “restaurants offering fewer menu items and being less receptive to new products,” Duncan told delegates.

This is leading to some lift in demand for convenient pan-ready venison products.

NZ venison exports to the US lifted 25 percent between 2019-2022.

The total volume of New Zealand venison exports to the US has lifted by over 24 per cent over the past five years to the end of 2022.

Participating at NRA supports the venison marketers’ ‘three-legs-of-the-stool’ strategy to focus their New Zealand venison sales efforts on three regions: the US, Europe and China and wider Asia.

While it's too early for any of the companies to be able to assess sales results from the show just yet, the initiative will be thoroughly reviewed to see how it can be built on in the future.

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