New Zealand Beef Dishes Up Export Dollars

JAPAN - New Zealand beef is carving out a tasty market niche in Japan, dishing up returns that should satisfy farmers and economists alike.
calendar icon 12 July 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Though New Zealand has just a small slice of the Japanese beef market – six per cent – it is the country's second largest export beef market by value. In 2009-10 we exported just under 35,000 tonnes of beef and co-products to Japan, worth NZ$231 million.

Meanwhile, Japanese consumers are buying and eating three times as much New Zealand beef as they did in 2003. Back then our market share was an even smaller two per cent.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s man on the ground, John Hundleby, said there is no mystery behind the rise in consumption.

He credits the industry-good organisation’s dedicated, long-term investment of time and resources – bolstered by a comprehensive marketing plan developed in conjunction with leading NZ meat companies operating in the Japanese market – and a canny eye for promotional opportunities.

“New Zealand grass-fed beef is not as well known in Japan as either grain-fed US or Australian beef, so we have to seize every chance we can to sing its praises, and to let people taste the difference for themselves,” he said.

That is why cooking demonstrations, barbecues, seminars and restaurant promotions are crucial, he said.

“Introducing that sensory element helps to clearly differentiate us from the competition, and never fails to win new fans. Once people try our beef, they’re impressed.”

Getting the hospitality industry on side is important, too, creating opportunities for chefs to actually handle the product and familiarise themselves with cooking it. Such as a Masterchef-style culinary challenge in Hiroshima recently, where competitors were given five hours to produce an entrée, main course and dessert from a mystery box of ingredients. New Zealand beef was, of course, the hero ingredient.

“This was my first chance to cook with New Zealand grass-fed beef,” said one of the winning chefs, 25-year-old Misato Matsuda.

“I found it very tender and easy to work with.”

Her teammate, 20-year-old Momoko Doi, was intrigued to find out more about the nutritional merits of grass-fed beef.

“When I tried it, I found it very easy to eat and look forward to using the beef in my cooking in the future,” she said.

A seminar and reception in the city the following day took the message to an even wider audience. It was one in a series of seminars Beef + Lamb New Zealand holds throughout Japan, targeting decision-makers from the distribution, retail and food service sectors, chefs and media.

“There’s no doubt these sorts of events, supported by our local trade partners, have helped to increase – and sustain – New Zealand beef’s profile and presence in Japan,” Mr Hundleby said.

The work will bring long-term benefits.

He added. "We’re quietly confident that farmers will continue to reap the dividends in the future."

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