The enthusiasm for Cervena venison in the American market hasn’t let up at all, as Angus Cleland found out when he met with 15 plus distributor sales representatives recently in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He says the main purpose of such a trip is to educate the reps and inform them about the product, the provenance of the program and the way it is produced.
He told us “The US protein market is increasingly supplied by large industrialised farming systems whereas New Zealand production is characterized by smaller scale family farming operations that produce high quality meats with a great story to tell. When personnel in the down-stream supply chain have an opportunity to gain insight into what goes on behind the farm gate - this really resonates”. This explains why a video of Raincliff Station in the South Island that was shown at the meeting was so well received. Angus says the way it clearly shows the farming business, the staff, and the barebones of how Cervena venison is raised - really connects with an American audience and sparks interest in what is a novel product in the US.
Outside of events like this, however, Angus says it takes a lot of ‘one-to-one’ connection with all links in the distribution chain to effectively promote Cervena. Teaming up with distributor sales reps to visit chefs that are working with Cervena (or could be!), and meeting the restaurant wait-staff who ultimately offer the venison dish to the diner, is an essential part of this education process. It also gives the opportunity to build organic relationships. Angus stressed “it is essential that restaurant wait-staff have the tools to be able to explain the product to customers and answer any question they may have. The modern consumer is increasingly curious, educated about the foods they consume and are looking for verifiable attributes associated with those products”.
Angus Cleland introduces Mountain River Cervena Venison at a distributor sales show in Atlanta
Slowly but surely, sales of Cervena venison are growing in the States. More and more high-end establishments like Eleven Madison Park in New York are putting New Zealand venison on their menus (amongst other game and specialty meat offerings) and there is an opportunity for expansion into more ‘mid-tier’ hotel, restaurant and institutional outlets. Angus says “America is a massive meat market and New Zealand producers have a wonderful story to tell”. Mountain River Venison are picking up on those trends and know what needs to be told. The goal now is to give staff and chefs the knowledge to tell that story, find their point of difference, and maximize the opportunity for Mountain River Cervena to secure ‘menu-share’. He went on to say that considering the positive response to consumer content so far, the interest is incredibly strong.