Cervena venison on Belgian BBQs

Cervena venison on Belgian BBQs

Friday, June 12, 2020

Covid-19 is still raging in Europe and the United States, but marketers of Cervena™ venison are pulling out the stops to keep this premium meat in front of consumers, says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) venison marketing manager Nick Taylor.

“The Covid-19 lockdowns around the world have had a bigger impact on sales of venison than for lamb or beef, because – as a premium product – a much greater proportion of venison is sold through food service to chefs.”

Our venison marketers are actively developing their retail offerings in association with their market partners,” he says.

An example of a new  retail initiative is work being done by Alliance Group. Together with Bimpex, their market partner, they have initiated a retail promotion of Cervena in Carrefour supermarkets in Belgium.

“Since 2016 Bimpex has been part of our Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) promotion of Cervena grilling cuts in the northern summer, a very non-traditional time to be selling venison in Europe.

“They have been importing NZ venison for 18 years, but mainly to supply food service. Last year they introduced Cervena to a retail chain for the first time and sales were sufficiently promising for them to plan an expansion of their summer Cervena retail promotion this year,” says Taylor.

Covid-19 badly interfered with these plans and Belgium has been particularly hard hit, but Bimpex and Alliance reacted swiftly and confirmed a revised promotion with Carrefour.

“Bimpex is now supplying two summer Cervena products – rack steaks (single ribs sold in pairs) and fillets – to more than 80 Carrefour stores. Carrefour is a premium supermarket with a mix of small express stores in city centres as well as traditional supermarkets.”

The Cervena cuts are being strongly positioned as barbecue items with retail displays and stickers on the packs.

Taylor says Covid-19 is still affecting restaurants in Europe and North America – the two biggest markets for NZ venison – even in those countries and states where they have been allowed to reopen. While restaurants are open, they are having to adhere to strict social distancing rules which mean they are operating at less than 50% of normal capacity.

“Tim Mitchell from Broadleaf, a specialty meats importer based in Los Angeles, tells us they are seeing pockets of activity across the United States, however the challenge for food service is that each state and county has their own guidelines for when and how restaurants can reopen,” Taylor says.

Photo: A Cervena display in a Carrefour supermarket in Belgium

With many people still staying home, Mitchell says Broadleaf has recently enjoyed holiday-level sales through its online channels. The company has also seen sales of NZ venison products, including Cervena medallions, increasing above normal levels for this time of year. A ‘friends and family’ box introduced by Broadleaf is selling well. This includes venison items.

Mitchell noted that demand for manufacturing venison used for jerky and minced products has stayed strong through the lockdown, as has the demand for venison for pet food.

Taylor says the food service slow-down is reflected in April exports with the total volume, at 970 tonnes, down 23 per cent on the same time last year and value, at $12.5 million, down 36 per cent. This reflects a big drop in demand and unit prices from the industry’s two biggest markets, Germany and the United States.

“On the bright side, demand from some smaller markets jumped significantly. Austria was up 111 per cent to 27 tonnes, and Singapore up 129 per cent to 13 tonnes,” he says.

“While these are modest figures, it shows our marketing companies are continuing to put their energies into developing and growing new and smaller markets. At the same time, they are seeking to reinvigorate our bigger markets at a very difficult time for food service.”

Taylor says one interesting shift has been the demand from the United Kingdom for manufacturing grades in recent months. The overall volume sold to the UK increased by 172 per cent in April, however the total value increased by a very modest 15 per cent.  

“Importers have responded to the change in the market. As a result of Covid-19 and fewer people eating out, there will have been an increase in demand for lower priced venison suitable for use in products like ready-made meals for retail.  It’s good to see this spread of markets developing.”