Tuesday, 21 March 2017 09:25

NZ’s red meat story needs better storytelling

Written by  Peter Burke
Sam McIvor. Sam McIvor.

New Zealand's red meat sector must do a much better selling job when telling its story to customers – offshore and at home.

That’s a key message from experts working with the sector to help craft the story that reflects the attributes of the industry.

Recently about 70 industry people took part in a workshop to discover key positive messages that will resonate with buyers, distributors and consumers of NZ red meat.

Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the attendees heard that NZers are too bashful and humble, that they need to be much bolder and unafraid to sell the story harder. McIvor says we should learn from the Australians about this.

He said a New York food marketing guru, Mike Lee, told the workshop there are things about the industry which seem mundane to NZers but they are profound to customers.

“Things we don’t often think about ourselves are seen as remarkable outside our country. For example, our farmers grass feed our animals and make their living from our natural resources -- growing and harvesting grass and turning that into meat,” McIvor explains. “The level of sophistication of NZ production systems is unique and something we take for granted, but others don’t.”

McIvor says the reason for developing a red meat story is the belief – right across the industry – that it is not promoting itself well enough. The workshop was a part of a bigger project: 45 farmers have been interviewed for their views and opinions, and information gathered from overseas importers, sellers and buyers of our meat. These conversations are to find out what people see as unique about our products and help develop our storyline.

“Because many of our products are sold to high-end consumers, they want to know the story behind the product and we need to provide this along with proof of what we are saying. We have good data to back up and underpin our story, such as government regulations the industry is required to comply with,” McIvor explains.

“We also have other positive messages: we are one of the least corrupt countries and an easy place to do business. We have to build all this into a story and create an aura about NZ. A key point we need to understand and deliver on is that when people are buying our products they are also buying NZ,” he says.

As part of the process of creating a red meat story, BLNZ is working with government agencies, especially Tourism NZ.

McIvor says tourists in NZ present a great opportunity for introduction to our food and a lot more needs to be done locally to get this message across.

“We need to bring all NZers -- restaurants, chefs and the public -- on board with this campaign and get them to be proud of the products we produce and to be ambassadors for our food sector.”

McIvor says the gathered mass of information on the red meat story now must be refined and crafted so as to resonate with customers -- perhaps as a certification mark on products or some other form of promotion. A company has been retained to develop this, then the messages will be tested on interested parties in NZ and overseas.

McIvor says this may take several months, but the most important thing is to get it right. “Realistically, it may take until the end of the year before the final messaging is rolled out.”


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