David Morgan learned a lot about the value of Cervena from his face-to-face conversations with Chefs, front-of-house, and other customers in the United States. David recalls that when in the States, there were some clear lessons for us. One was the importance of Cervena and the need to retain and keep developing our use of the quality mark.
Our first stop was in New York, with more than 13,000 restaurants. When you understand the Chef's mentality and communicate exactly how things are with the consistency and quality standards behind Cervena, they get this. They really appreciate the farmer and value chain commitments rather than general sales statements. My daughter understood this space, and so I took her in with me. Her observation was the Chefs genuinely got the authentic credentials-based story.
We were in a New England restaurant, and the Chef rang up his mates and said come down now, we've got the real deal here. He could not believe that we flew all the way to talk with samples and had the quality credentials to support what we were saying. So to date, we have traction with the Quality Mark, which has proven successful.
We have worked hard as farmers to differentiate ourselves from all other products. As a result, we have a unique brand for prime farmed venison, which the Cervena Quality Mark supports. In addition, we could see that the market traction is particularly strong in the American market. Thus it has served our industry partners well over the years.
This was made clear when talking to customers. They understood that the Mark guarantees consistency in texture, taste, and quality every time as it is regulated, and farmers stand by it.
In the American market, the top-end chefs loved the Cervena concept. You could immediately tell they and the front-of-house staff were getting educated on the attributes of Cervena. They really brought into it.
"I was fizzy with enthusiasm on seeing the customer reaction to Cervena."
But, don't get me wrong, you still have to wear some shoe leather out to conquer these markets. But with Cervena, we have a platform for this. And just like Zespri with Kiwifruit, the integrated supply chain - from the farm to the Chef's plate for us - is focused on meeting the customers' needs.
This production and distribution system delivers the world's best venison to customers worldwide.
Today the quality mark represents the culmination of decades of farmer, plant, marketing, and distribution, practical, technical, and scientific achievements. Customers know this means a commitment to quality standards and continuous improvement.
The benefits are similar to the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Quality Mark / Rosette. People see the Rossett on the box and know it is premium New Zealand beef and lamb. For us, it is the Cervena Mark and three gold stripes. It is an assurance that it is New Zealand grown and maintains the highest quality standards and farming practices.
We have invested a lot of money through our levies, so we want to see a continued return on this investment. We should look at this in terms of the longevity of business. DINZ and all concerned need to support the continued investment and promotion of Cervena. We need consistency and to avoid jumping around, so it's imperative to keep focused on Cervena. The inter-generational market development happens over time. We have succeeded in niche markets, which is the way forward.
It is good to see the real positives and what advantages we can take from this. The specialist venison companies see and get the benefits and are truly committed. Cervena is for the long term.
When I wear my marketing hat and belonging to the Mountain River fold, I think Cervena has momentum and represents our future. The focus now is on how we take Cervena forward as farmers and marketers.
As farmers, we should encourage those committed to the Cervena Quality Mark. That means for us supporting Mountain River Venison. We've all worked hard for this for 30 years and should stay loyal. We want to continue to benefit from so much time, effort, and financial commitment.
"We will continue, and I can see Cervena supply groups developing."
The Key Lessons Learned From The United States
The key things I learned about the United States were:
They wanted assurance of continuity, consistency, and quality of supply.
They like the fact that we are grass-based.
I never used the words "ranch" or "prairie." I used the word "Farm" because we are a farm. They appreciated things being explained honestly. We talked about rotational grazing and how we winter feed the deer and conserve feed. Then when they saw photographs of the farm with green grass, they were excited about our venison.
They were very interested to know:
That my family was involved.
That I have a relationship with the people at the processing plant.
The production standards for licensed Cervena.
That we have an Environmental Plan.
We have a high welfare standard.
Price never even came into it because we are providing a premium product. This is where Cervena plays a critical role.
"With the Cervena Mark behind you, you have a regulated Quality Mark. The Mark immediately communicates New Zealand farm-raised venison under the age of three."
Otherwise, you are forced to use generalised marketing statements which do not hold the same credibility.
Growing With The United States Market
Sometimes we may assume we have a right to sell, but that is not how the market works. In addition, costs are going up. That means we must do the job properly to get the margins.
During my visit to the United States, I learned that we are selling into premium markets and need premium credentials like Cervena. Ultimately this means better returns. Then we can reinvest and grow the business.
Then we can have a long-term sustainable, profitable farming model. And it needs to keep improving and adapting to market needs.