Since their launch last November, New Zealand venison tomahawk steaks and breakfast sausages have been flying out of US meat company Force of Nature's virtual door. Going back to nature proves to be good business.
Force of Nature's ground New Zealand venison and beef brick is available on retail shelves in the US.
Recently NZDFA posted an update on our US marketplace developments. It outlines our excellent market progress, and we share this here.
Angus Cleland, Managing Director of California-based Terra Pacific Marketing, the market partner for Mountain River Venison, is pleased with the progress.
DINZ funding to assist the pivot to new markets, like the US, accelerated the launch of three items onto the start-up's online and retail range - New Zealand venison steak medallions, ground Elk (Wapiti) mince 'bricks,' and venison/beef ground mince. It is also helping the development of the new products.
Angus Cleland is pictured at a recent distributor roadshow.
Sales have been going well, particularly for the tomahawk steaks. The single-serve five-ounce steak is quite approachable "for a consumer not used to this type of product. It cooks very quickly and cleanly and is a good steak," says Cleland.
It has attracted the attention of affluent and educated US consumers looking for different products to try cooking at home during Covid-19 and "quickly garnered interest from bricks and mortar retail distribution," he says. They have also been keen on trying the venison twist on the breakfast sausage, a popular item in US home-cooking.
He explains that those consumers understand the impact of their purchase decisions and are willing to pay more for premium items with sustainable credentials. In addition, consumers have information at their fingertips in today's smartphone world, "there's no room for green-washing – claims must be honest and verifiable." he says.
Established in 2019 by American couple Taylor Collins and Katie Forest, Force of Nature's guiding philosophy – "Farming in nature's image" – and insistence that all products in their range are produced in line with the principles of regenerative agriculture (RA), fits into that paradigm.
RA has no specific rules, unlike organic farming, but it takes the principles of sustainable agriculture more deeply.
"It's about improving the management of topsoil and topsoil regeneration, increasing the biodiversity on the fields, and improving the water cycle, which ultimately is better for the animals and the environment."
In effect, "Force of Nature have shortened the chain between consumers and the ranch," says Cleland, and Mountain River Venison's deer farming suppliers fit neatly into the e-retailer's specifications. Suppliers receive an annual questionnaire for the company's Land Steward Index and have an opportunity to give feedback at the same time.
High-quality farm-raised venison trim and other cuts are provided from Mountain River Venison for further processing by Force of Nature's processing partner in Texas – specialists in further processing to precise specification, including portion control.
Particularly encouraging for Cleland has been the uptick in repeat sales online and a "significant" increase through retail within a very challenging environment, which still includes disruptions to freight, both into and within the US.
"It's been a tough couple of years in the deer industry, but we're really thankful to see the farmers sticking with it because it's an incredible product with a great future," says Cleland.
He believes that best-in-class USA market partners like Force of Nature successfully promote New Zealand venison to a large, targeted audience prepared to pay more for premium meat produced in harmony with nature.