NZ venison on the menu in top restaurants in China

Sep 17, 2021

Marketers of New Zealand farm-raised venison are moving beyond the test kitchen and into leading restaurants in China. The aim is to find a profitable place for venison in the massive Chinese food market.

Consultant Chef Shen Jianfeng working on venison recipes that are now being promoted in Chinese fine dining restaurants

The next step in the market development programme is to test venison cuts and recipes in a real restaurant setting, says DINZ venison marketing manager Nick Taylor. The programme involves the three venison companies that are licensed to export to China and the industry organisation, Deer Industry NZ (DINZ). Funding comes from Passion2Profit, a joint venture between the deer industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries,

“Two restaurant groups are already participating, with two more chains to be added to the programme shortly,” Taylor says.

“Lei Garden is a chain of fine dining restaurants featuring Cantonese cuisine operating in China, Hong Kong and Macau. The group has garnered over 80 Michelin stars over the past 12 years.

“Gaga is a chain that operates throughout China, offering traditional Chinese cuisine, as well western dishes with Chinese flavours. In August we held a workshop for Gaga’s development chefs, who are now working with NZ venison importers to confirm cuts and supply for the promotions.”

In return for promotional support from the P2P programme, Lei Garden and Gaga have agreed to share customer reaction and sales data. This information will enrich the venison industry’s understanding of how Chinese consumers view venison in Chinese cuisine and within a Chinese menu.

The sales data will also be used to create case studies that companies can use as promotional tools. These will explain the cost of product, per plate cost of the meal, profit margin and how well the product sold during the trial period.

Taylor says the potential in China huge, but so are the challenges. “Consumers there have virtually no knowledge of venison, its taste and texture. They see deer as elite animals, not as the source of an everyday meal ingredient.

“However, younger generations of Chinese consumers are open to novel foods and while the quantities of NZ venison exported to China are tiny when compared to other red meats, China is now our third largest venison market.”

He says the objective of the current P2P-funded work in China is to develop a deeper understanding of where venison best fits in certain Chinese cuisines. This information is then shared with all major NZ venison marketers.

“Earlier this year we completed some intensive recipe development work, marrying cuts of venison to Chinese cuisine styles. These cuts are not necessarily the ones westerners are familiar with – success in China will mean producing cuts and packaging them specifically for the China market.”

Alongside the P2P project, the three venison companies working in China – Alliance Group, Mountain River and Silver Fern Farms – have their own individual marketing programmes. In the case of Silver Fern Farms, it is working on a market development project part-funded by DINZ from a special $225,000 contestable fund.

The one-off grant was funded from DINZ reserves in response to major disruption to venison markets caused by the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality businesses.

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