NZ deer velvet in a growing range of Korean health foods

NZ deer velvet in a growing range of Korean health foods

Friday, April 23, 2021

The South Korean market for branded health food products based on deer antler velvet and other traditional ingredients is continuing to grow, says Deer Industry New Zealand.

“The intrinsic quality of our velvet, our high animal welfare and food safety standards, and the fact that our deer are raised in a free range environment make New Zealand the preferred source of velvet for many Korean health food manufacturers,” says DINZ chief executive Innes Moffat.

“Their brands rely on the integrity of their supply chains and New Zealand ticks all the boxes. The NZ provenance is invariably highlighted on product labels and marketing materials.” 

The diversity of products based on NZ velvet and the value attributed to them by Korean consumers is clearly apparent from a recent media scan.

The market for velvet as an ingredient in branded health foods emerged in 2014 when the Korea Ginseng Corporation (KGC), one of that country’s most respected companies launched Cheon-Nok, a velvet and herbal extract, as a consumer product. It was – and continues to be – based on premium NZ deer velvet, says Moffat.

“Cheon-Nok means 'a precious antler from the sky'. Last month Korea e-Daily reported that since its launch, sales of Cheon-Nok have grown by an annual average of 175 per cent, reaching KRW 300 billion ($NZ 380 million) in 2020.” 

According to the report, KGC was increasing the deer velvet content of its four Cheon-Nok products by 28 per cent, with prices remaining the same. The products include a bottled extract, a stick-type product, a liquid pouch and a formulation tailored for women.

The success of Cheon-Nok has resulted in the launch of dozens of velvet-based products by KGC’s competitors. Last year, DINZ identified the launch of scores of new products based on velvet, most of it sourced from New Zealand.

Several more velvet products have been launched so far in 2021. A media scan in March uncovered new products where NZ velvet is combined with red ginseng, manuka honey, various herbs and aloeswood.

“Aloeswood will not be familiar to many New Zealanders. It is a very dense fragrant dark resinous wood that forms in the heartwood of aquilaria trees when they become infected with a type of mould. This is highly valued in many cultures as an incense, perfume and a medicinal ingredient,” Moffat says.

“An example from the luxury end of the market is Taehwang CheonJin Dan, marketed by Chunhoncare. According to Energy Economy, a box of 30 4.5 gram balls formulated from Indonesian aloeswood, red ginseng and NZ deer velvet retails for KRW 1 million a  box ($NZ 1254).

“At Costco, Kids Junior Hongsam, marketed by Chong Kun Dang, is available at the more family-friendly price of KRW 30,000 ($NZ 37.56) for 1 box of 30 x 20 ml pouches. According to Jose Ilbo, a news agency, Kids Junior Hongsam is formulated from red ginseng, herbs and New Zealand deer velvet.”

Moffat says the deer industry rates the development of a market for NZ velvet in branded food products in Korea as one of its greatest successes. Replicating this success in other markets across Asia is one of its major strategic objectives.

Background information

Deer naturally grow and shed their antlers each year. On deer farms the antlers are removed in spring and early summer for three reasons:

  • To collect a valuable health food ingredient
  • For the safety of other deer and those who farm them
  • To avoid the potential for injury to deer during transport.

The removal of velvet antler – the antler before it has hardened into bone – is defined as a ‘controlled surgical procedure' under the Animal Welfare Act.

To comply with the Act and animal welfare codes a velvet removal programme was developed in association with the NZ Veterinary Association, NAWAC, MPI and animal welfare groups represented by the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals. This is published by MPI and managed by the National Velvetting Standards Body (NVSB).

Key points:

  • Velvetting must be carried using anaesthetic, so the stag feels no pain. Any distress must be minimised.
  • Velvetting must be carried out by a deer veterinarian or by a certified farmer who has passed a written theory exam, an oral test and a practical assessment by an independent veterinarian.
  • Certified farmer velvetters must be assessed each year by a supervising veterinarian
  • Random independent audits of both certified velvetters and veterinarians are carried out to test compliance and to ensure the integrity of the programme.

Recent research shows the quality of NZ velvet, as measured by its bio-activity, has been steadily increasing. This is due to improvements in the breeding, feeding and health of velvet herds, as well as industry grading standards which encourage farmers to humanely remove their velvet at the optimum growth stage.

Research backing for the use of NZ deer velvet

For more information, contact Innes Moffat, Chief Executive, Deer Industry NZ, Tel 021 465 121