Cutting the meat to meet the market has reaped reward for venison processor and marketer Mountain River.
The Canterbury-based venison exporter has made a breakthrough for New Zealand venison in Sweden with the official launch of its range of novel grilling cuts.
Connecting with one of Sweden’s leading restaurant wholesalers, Menigo, Mountain River cemented the breakthrough deal that has the venison marketer dealing direct with a one-stop shop for Swedish food professionals.
Mountain River marketing manager John Sadler said the company had been active in Sweden for 20 years, but this launch was different to what the company had done in the past.
It was particularly exciting at a time when some of the most innovative contemporary cooking was coming out of Scandinavia, with chefs around the world looking to them as trendsetters.
“Instead of working through an importer, we are now working directly with a distributor who is as enthusiastic as we are about NZ venison,” Sadler said.
NZ processor and marketer Mountain River has formed a partnership with one of Sweden's leading restaurant wholesalers.
The launch had been 18 months in the making.
“I was first approached 18 months ago by Richard Hofbauer, their (Menigo) meat buyer.
“He was looking for some restaurant-ready cuts at a good price point. We invited him to NZ, showed him the industry and what we had to offer, and he liked what he saw,” Sadler said.
Mountain River proceeded to work with Hofbauer, company colleagues at the plant, and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) executive chef Graham Brown to look at options that might work for Menigo.
“Not only did we develop some novel shoulder and leg cuts, which were launched in Sweden in May, it was also great for establishing a partnership,” Sadler said.
“We’re now one of Menigo’s key suppliers.”
Menigo is a one-stop shop for food professionals, with warehouses and food halls in Stockholm, Malmo and four other Swedish cities. It prides itself on providing products and services that are tailored to the requirements of each of its chef customers.
The frozen cuts, all of which were suitable for grilling, were being actively promoted as NZ farm-raised venison to Swedish restauranteurs by Menigo’s sales team.
A series of launch events had also taken place at leading Stockholm restaurants.
At these events Graham Brown worked with chefs to perfect the cooking of the cuts and to gauge reaction from paying customers.
“The first-hand feedback we have been getting from customers and chefs is allowing us to fine-tune the selling message as we go.”
Sadler said the next step was to build demand in the Swedish autumn-winter game season.
This would include Brown hosting chefs’ academy workshops, further events with restaurants and also a refresh training of the sales teams.
DINZ had helped fund elements of the launch from its European key account programme.
The programme provided support to each of NZ’s five venison marketing companies for promotions, with a current focus on developing and retaining key accounts at a time when venison supply was tight, DINZ venison marketing manager Marianne Wilson said.
“Eating reindeer is part of the Swedish culture. While eating grilled venison in summer is unusual, their chefs are innovative and have responded well to the launch.
“Some of the most innovative contemporary cooking was now coming out of Scandinavia, with chefs around the world looking to them as trendsetters,” Wilson said.
She said Mountain River was continually evolving its portfolio of products to suit customer needs, and the building blocks were now in place for them to expand their sales into Sweden over the next few years as venison production increased.
“From an industry point of view this is a good diversification, creating more year-round demand for branded NZ farm-raised venison outside the Eurozone.”