14 May 2013
Blair and Jane Smith with the Royal Host and Mos Burger restaurant chain executive management team in Taiwan.
An industry-backed trip to Asia has given Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith a deeper understanding of the challenges facing marketers of New Zealand meat and dairy products.
National winners of the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Smiths recently returned from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore, where they visited a number of key markets for New Zealand sheep, beef and dairy products.
The purpose of the 16-day trip was to learn more about offshore markets, exchange views on topics of crucial interest to New Zealand farmers and to showcase New Zealand’s stance on agricultural sustainability.
Jane Smith says the trip, which was undertaken in late April and early May, opened their eyes to the scale and diversity of Asian markets.
“Each country we visited was completely different in terms of consumer tastes and requirements, and that really made us appreciate some of the challenges the marketers of our products face.”
“In South Korea, for example, there is a strong preference for grain-fed beef. So we saw how marketers of New Zealand beef in South Korea and Taiwan are successfully changing consumer perceptions by highlighting the natural and healthy aspects of our grass-fed beef.
In China the Smiths noted the importance of strong relationships with resellers of New Zealand products.
“The Chinese want to build long-term relationships with their suppliers and they want a secure and consistent supply. If we are going to develop more business in China, we have to have a very good understanding of their markets.”
Blair Smith says a highlight of the trip was a visit to the Grand Farm company – one of China’s biggest importers of New Zealand lamb.
In Taiwan the Smiths were impressed by the exceptional standards in country-of-origin food labelling.
“Go to any supermarket or restaurant and they can tell you exactly where their meat came from and, in the case of ground product, exactly what is in it. As in the other Asian markets we visited, food safety is a paramount concern for consumers.”
Jane says they were impressed with the approach Beef+Lamb New Zealand and Fonterra have taken to developing markets in Asia.
“It’s clear they have made great efforts to understand the needs of consumers within each specific market.”
This knowledge is crucial.
“As New Zealand farmers, it’s important that we know what we can do to ensure our produce meets the demands of our global customers. We know we have great products but we also have to help consumers understand why they should pay a premium for them.”
Jane says while food safety is a foremost concern for Asian consumers, they also want products to be produced in a manner that is environmentally sustainable.
Blair says he and Jane met a huge range of marketers, consumers, politicians and industry representatives during the trip.
“Most of the people we talked to had a very good perception of New Zealand and our agriculture. That made us proud.”
Jane says the trip was an important part of the “great personal development journey Blair and I have been on since we won the Supreme award for Otago and the Gordon Stephenson Trophy”.
The Smiths, who run a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation, are looking forward to sharing what they have learnt with other farmers. They will also make a special presentation of their findings at the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Showcase in Hamilton in June.
Their trip was supported by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Fonterra and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, firstname.lastname@example.org.
or visit web www.bfea.org.nz