Silver Fern is New Zealand’s leading beef, lamb and venison processor and market leader. With 14 factories and more than 15,000 farmers in New Zealand, Silver Fern’s products are sold in more than 60 countries and territories worldwide. Silver Fern began exporting New Zealand grass-fed red meat to China more than 20 years ago and has seen a steady increase year after year. In recent years, Silver Fern has turned its attention to hotels and high-end dining; And this year vigorously carry out online and offline retail and promotion activities.
What is the current status of Silver Fern Farm worldwide? What products have entered the Chinese market? What is Silver Fern’s expectation for the Chinese consumer market in the next few years? With these questions in mind, we interviewed Simon Limmer, Global Executive Director of Silver Fern Farms, and Wang Zhen, General Manager of China.
The grass-fed red meat products are safe and healthy for the Chinese market
CFMJ: First of all, what is Silver Fern’s market-driven, customer-focused strategy?
Simon Limmer: In New Zealand, quality is the number one driver of everything. New Zealand has a unique production environment where land and natural water resources are key to our leading position in the industry. We are committed to meeting the needs of consumers around the world. We are committed to a ‘plate to pasture’ strategy, prioritizing the interests of consumers, and understanding the views of consumers from different cultural backgrounds around the world on New Zealand grass-fed meat to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of different consumers. At the same time, we are trying to guide consumers and help them have a better eating experience.
CFMJ: Grass-fed red meat is Silver Fern’s unique proposition. What does that mean for consumers? What deep meaning does the so-called pure natural feeding concept contain?
Simon Limmer: New Zealand is blessed with a vast range of pastures and abundant resources. There are plenty of space, clean air, fresh water and natural pastures. So we can run animal husbandry in the most natural way in the world today. Compared with industrial farming, New Zealand’s meat is lean, with no growth hormones added and almost no antibiotics used throughout the production process. The animals here are free to grow according to their own growth pattern, and this way of production results in the unique taste of our products. Consumers will not really feel the difference between natural grass-fed meat and farmed meat until they have tasted it.
New Zealand grass-fed red meat has significant natural benefits and health properties. New Zealand grass-fed meat products have lean meat quality, low saturated fat content and natural taste. Unique fiber, texture and taste; Rich in vitamins A, E and omega-3 fatty acids.
CFMJ: What are the policies that are in place at the national government level when it comes to raising cattle and sheep? From the company level, what measures are there to ensure?
Simon Limmer: Livestock and the relationship between farmers and government has been the backbone of New Zealand’s economy for many years. In New Zealand’s natural livestock system, almost no non-natural inputs are required in the food chain, which ensures the consistency of taste in New Zealand meat products.
The New Zealand Department of Primary Industries is a partner of New Zealand farmers and exporters and has the most stringent requirements for integrity in our operations. New Zealand has a strong food processing system, a high degree of integrity throughout the food supply chain, and strict food laws and regulations, including the New Zealand Farm Guarantee Scheme, operating export regulations, operating processing regulations, these centralized certification processes provide a guarantee for the integrity of the farm management.
The products produced at Silver Fern Farm are traceable and can be traced back to the farm where the product was produced, how it was produced and the farmer’s feed inputs to ensure the authenticity of the product. To ensure the integrity of our farms and the traceability of our products, we also use digital tools such as Farm IQ and work with third party companies such as Oritain to ensure the authenticity of our products and increase the confidence of end consumers in our products.
CFMJ: What’s your outlook on the Chinese market? What is Silver Fern Farm’s goal for 2020? Are you satisfied with the results so far?
Simon Limmer: 2020 is a very special year for the world. We are particularly pleased with our growth in China. China is a very important market for us and we are investing a lot of energy and resources in China. Silver Fern Farm’s products are exactly what Chinese consumers are looking for — reliable food safety and a delicious eating experience.
By the end of 2020, China will be our largest market and growing faster than any other market. We also attach great importance to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) as an opportunity for us to position our products, understand the importance of exporting to the Chinese market, and gain market ground in products that meet the needs of the Chinese market.
CFMJ: Shanghai Merlin acquired a 50% stake in Silver Fern Farm in 2016. Could you talk about the significance of this cooperation for both sides? How else will future cooperation unfold?
Simon Limmer: Having a partner in the Chinese market is a huge advantage and gives us direction in a market that is changing so fast. With the support of Shanghai Merlin, we have also built relationships with government, commercial institutions and other stakeholders, which have provided us with a strong foundation for our growth in China. Among them, the Group has more than 20 distribution centers in China, which can deliver products to large and medium-sized cities in China more quickly. Shanghai Meilin’s existing meat distribution network is also a huge advantage. Su Food, its subsidiary, is a very powerful distributor in the Yangtze River Delta, which can effectively help us cover the Yangtze River Delta. These relationships and partnerships are fundamental to our future success in China.
CFMJ: What is Silver Fern’s forecast for the Chinese consumer market over the next few years? Can you talk about the company’s strategy or measures for this?
Simon Limmer: China will continue to be a very important market for us. Our China team is in continuous development to help us explore the needs of Chinese consumers and market partners. The complexity, size and geography of the Chinese market are vast. Facing such a geographically large market as China, we will encounter a variety of cultural and consumer differences, so we need to tailor our strategy according to China’s geographical location, channels, culture and consumer differences. We started in eastern China, moved west and gradually expanded to second-tier cities. We are also considering customizing products for the Chinese market that are more tailored to the needs of Chinese consumers. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are confident in the long-term growth of Silver Fern Farms in the Chinese market.
Bring more meat products to China by controlling cold chain security
CFMJ: What are the main parts of Silver Fern’s beef retail products entering the Chinese market? What are its features? What red meat products will be launched in the future?
Wang Zhen: Many retail beef products, such as sirloin, eye meat, including tenderloin, are commonly used in western food. But more importantly, we also have Chinese dishes that suit the cuisine of ordinary Chinese people, such as New Zealand beef cut in hot pot, or tendons for all kinds of stews, stews and sauces.
In fact, when it comes to New Zealand, in addition to beef, more likely consumers will think of where they can buy New Zealand mutton. Mutton is our next key product. In the second half of 2020, chilled mutton from New Zealand has been put on sale in Sam’s Club stores across the country, and its popularity is often sold out within three or five days. We will be launching more New Zealand lamb products in the future. At the same time, before and after the Expo, we talked with many famous restaurant chains about how to put the venison products from Silver Fern Farm on the restaurant table. Venison is an attractive product whose taste, health and nutritional value will strike a chord with Chinese consumers. We believe that you will soon see our venison products in some mainstream and well-known restaurants.
CFMJ: This is the third time that Silver Fern Farm has participated in CIIE. What is the effect of its presentation? What other marketing campaigns will Silver Fern Farm launch in the future?
Wang Zhen: The Expo is a very good platform for communication and exhibition. It enables foreign enterprises, factories or farmers to listen to the voice from the Chinese market in the first time. Through the expo, we turn the exhibits into commodities; In addition, these voices and demands can be quickly transmitted back to New Zealand and transformed into products customized for the Chinese market. This is the biggest harvest brought to us by the Expo.
Bright Group is a very important shareholder of our company and has supported us to participate in China Import and Export Expo for three consecutive years. Through the influence and resources of Bright Group in East China and the whole country, we complement each other’s advantages to jointly launch products suitable for Chinese consumers, and extend our influence beyond the Expo. In the first half of 2021, we plan to participate in the domestic mainstream exhibitions for promotion, to be able to have face-to-face communication with customers and partners across the country; At the same time, with the help of more online and offline channels, wide contact with the world merchants, to achieve more business cooperation.
CFMJ: The outbreak of COVID-19 has once again sounded the alarm on food safety, and consumers are particularly concerned about the safety of frozen and frozen meat products. How does Silver Fern Farm control food safety in the whole cold chain process?
Wang Zhen: The COVID-19 has posed a great challenge to us, including the entire global industry. In terms of food safety, New Zealand enterprises are always at the forefront of global food enterprises. At Silver Fern, food safety, traceability and the quality of our food are our top priorities. Our products can be traced back to the farm, to every batch. Our food safety standards will not be loosened because of the outbreak, but it is a wake-up call for everyone. Influenced by the epidemic, online demand has increased. The retail packaging products we launched fit the consumption model of online shopping and community group buying. In the future, we will further promote the design of online products to respond to the concerns of Chinese consumers about food safety in the post-epidemic era.
CFMJ: You were appointed as the general manager of Silver Fern China in June 2020. Please talk about your work in the past six months. What is the company’s future deployment and development plan for the Chinese market?
Wang Zhen: The overall sales situation in 2020 is relatively ideal, which has also achieved the forecast at the beginning of the year. In the face of the sudden outbreak, we made rapid adjustments. With the help of Su Food, Jia Nong and other partners to launch online retail end products, so as to effectively make up for the loss of offline traditional trade. At the same time, I see strong signs of recovery in the restaurant and retail sectors. The Chinese market is not only important, but it is also changing very fast. This is more urgent to make good use of our China team, take advantage of our existing market layout, quickly listen to the demand and voice from the Chinese market, and pass it back to our global headquarters, and quickly transform these needs into products targeted at the Chinese market and can meet the needs of Chinese consumers. The Chinese market is the most important meat export market in the world, and with the help of strategic upgrading, we are full of confidence in the future.