Sunday, 27 September 2015 13:00

NZ beef preferred in Japan

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New Zealand beef on the shelves in Okinawa. New Zealand beef on the shelves in Okinawa.

Research shows 89% of supermarket consumers in international markets consider the country of origin when deciding which beef to purchase.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Scott Champion, says this consumer research informs how the organisation works on the ground to boost sales of New Zealand origin beef.

"We use a three-pronged approach that gives consumers reasons to buy New Zealand beef ahead of other countries. We tell the New Zealand story – including environment and animal welfare aspects – and highlight our food safety systems, as well as the health and wellbeing attributes of New Zealand beef."

Champion says the approach is well illustrated in Japan's southern-most province of Okinawa – a region known for the longevity of its population and healthy diet. "It is little surprise to find that Okinawans seek out lean red meat and that New Zealand grass-fed beef is their preference."

For the past 12 years, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and meat processor ANZCO have worked with popular Japanese retail and food chain San-A Co.

San-A senior managing director, Atsushi Nakanishi, says Okinawans typically consume more meat than other regions. "They prefer lean meat to fattier items, such as grain-fed beef. Accordingly, good-quality New Zealand grass-fed beef – which can be supplied on a stable basis – suits Okinawans' preferences."

To meet that demand, San-A established an ongoing trade in chilled New Zealand grass-fed beef 12 years ago. Today, New Zealand beef sales account for about 85 per cent of San-A's total beef sales, with supply constraints during the New Zealand winter being the only inhibitor to further growth. "Okinawan consumers rate New Zealand beef highly – particularly its consistently good quality, its tenderness and its overall taste."

ANZCO Foods Japan president, Makoto Kinjo, says New Zealand beef has very strong support and brand loyalty in Okinawa, because of its consistently high quality and its promotion as healthy beef.

Kinjo says consumers recognise the eating quality difference between New Zealand and Australian beef. "For example, every New Zealand winter, New Zealand production is down but demand is at a peak in Japan. From time to time, San-A has to fill the gap with Australian beef. Consumers immediately respond to that and recognise it is not the same beef. We have an obligation to deliver top product every week and ANZCO has been working with farmers to make sure they can secure cattle every week and month of the year."

Beef + Lamb New Zealand market manager Japan, John Hundleby, says the organisation's promotional activity in Okinawa focuses on supporting retailers of New Zealand grass-fed beef.

For the past six years, Beef + Lamb New Zealand has hosted a tasting booth at the Naha Marathon. The marathon attracts 30,000 runners annually and last year 400 kilograms of chilled New Zealand grass-fed beef was sampled by runners and spectators.

Another Beef + Lamb New Zealand promotional activity involves hosting educational seminars. Three seminars have been held in Okinawa in recent years, each attracting 100 to 120 potential trade customers, chefs, food stylists, and media. Hundleby says that in many cases, it is the first opportunity attendees have had to sample New Zealand grass-fed beef.

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