Beijing tastes NZ beef

By Joanna Grigg

In Business5 Minutes
The ANZCO Foods display at the Beijing supermarket tasting stand, showing Taste Pure Nature imagery as a way to promote grass-fed beef and the NZ story.

Rick Walker, ANZCO Foods General Manager of Sales and Marketing, says the meat company has seen an upswing in demand for their premium chilled beef products.

This follows in-store promotions in Beijing. In late 2020 ANZCO Foods partnered with Beef + Lamb New Zealand to promote beef, using levy-funded Taste Pure Nature branding and digital platforms.

The company is one of four that have used the country-of-origin brand Taste Pure Nature to grow consumers’ awareness of NZ grass-fed beef in China.

“Due to Covid-19 we’ve only had the opportunity to complete one promotion so far, so the data set is small, but it met our expectations,” Walker said.

“After a spike in sales during the promotional period, we saw demand return to a higher average level, meaning new consumers had taken advantage of the promotion to try our products and they liked what they tasted.”

ANZCO Foods ran promotions in two mid-premium range supermarket chains. Free samples were cooked onsite and given directly to shoppers to try.

“Round cuts work best with Chinese cuisine – they are ideal for hotpot and stir fry.

“We are also trying to educate consumers about western-style cuisine, which lends itself more to the traditional steak cuts.”

Signage is placed on meat chillers and Taste Pure Nature stickers are added to the ANZCO Foods-branded products.

Alongside the in-store tastings, a social media influencer was used to promote NZ beef, although Walker describes using influencers as more variable in its success rate.

Walker describes Chinese consumers as often being naïve to NZ’s grass-fed beef and lamb story.

“While the typical consumer in North America may have more of a negative perception based on history around of the quality of grass-fed beef, the opportunity in China is that most consumers aren’t as tarnished by those misconceptions.”

“They just don’t know about it.”

“If they think about agriculture and food production in New Zealand, their initial reaction is to think about milk.”

Prior to 2017 only frozen NZ beef was imported by China and NZ did not have a national origin brand used internationally. Walker says NZ missed the boat somewhat following China providing NZ with new market access for chilled beef in 2017. Investment in marketing was low compared to the Australians; B+LNZ spent NZ $4.4 million that year compared to $64m by Meat Livestock Australia (MLA).

“Australia invested heavily in China and their industry logo connected consumers with the perception of high-quality grass-fed beef, even though their story is weaker than ours.

“We needed to get in there and sell our story in order to give us a chance.”

The Taste Pure Nature brand was created in 2018 and, since its release, all NZ companies have had the opportunity to leverage the Taste Pure Nature imagery alongside their own marketing in China.

An overarching country-of-origin brand is the better option to teach consumers about NZ beef and lamb, Walker says, rather than going solo.

“Consumers can then contemplate the merits of what ANZCO Foods offer through its specific brands and products.”

Walker says no one NZ importer really has a strong presence in the chilled market in China. “I’d call it an emerging presence, but one that we are all very focused on given the massive opportunity that exists long term.”

Walker says the team at Beef + Lamb NZ has done a great job in developing the Taste Pure Nature brand and messages.

“The challenge, as always, is executing it within the budget.”

ANZCO Foods plans to promote their chilled beef within Chinese supermarkets every six months. It works, Walker says.

“But you can’t just do this sort of promotional activity once. As a company and as an industry we need to be willing to see Taste Pure Nature as an investment, which means taking a long-term view of the benefits.”

“When it comes to branded products, you’ve got to be willing to spend money to make money.”