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Lamb producers need plate-to-paddock, consumer-focussed attitude

by Kim Woods, 15 August 2016
MLA chief marketing and communications officer Lisa Sharp

MLA’s Lisa Sharp  believes producers need to pay close attention to what consumers want, need and value.

LAMB producers need to embrace plate-to-paddock thinking and develop a fascination of consumers to ensure continued market growth.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s chief marketing and communications officer Lisa Sharp told delegates at LambEx 2016 that consumer drivers needed to be addressed if Australia’s love affair with lamb was to continue.

“Sweetening a developed market like Australia, there remains an ongoing need for education on lamb’s convenience and modern application.

“We must build on the traditional paddock to plate thinking,’’ Ms Sharp said.

“Consumers are interested in the welfare of animals and the sustainability of the environment.

“Producers need to be equally interested in their consumers – we need to be thinking plate to paddock.’’

Ms Sharp said the consumer created strong sustainable demand, realising price premiums for producers.

“In a rapidly changing environment, we need to understand all the factors influencing consumption and pay close attention to what consumers want, need and value,’’ she said.

“The consumer is well and truly the boss, and you should start to be fascinated by them.

“The domestic market remains our single most important market with respect to value and volume.’’

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Some consumers are eating less red meat, others more

MLA data reveals 14 percent of consumers are eating more red meat a week than a year ago, but, on the flip side, 20pc of consumers are eating less.

“Lamb has strengths in overall eating experience, superiority and consumers are prepared to pay a little more for it,’’ Ms Sharp said.

“We have an ever changing multi-cultural population, with those new to Australia being more familiar with pork, poultry and beef.

“And, we must never assume all our consumers are confident cooks.’’

Ms Sharp said Australian lamb was loved around the world and is “on trend’’.

Need to shift Chinese lamb consumer perceptions

She pointed to China as a market with significant red meat growth potential on the back of rising household income, but the country has a strong reliance on domestic product.

Local goat and sheep meat production in 2015 accounted for 91pc of the market, while 6pc was New Zealand imported product and 3pc was Australian lamb. However, Australia’s share of the imported mutton market amounted to 35pc.

Overall, China produced 4.45 million tonnes of goat and sheep meat locally in 2015 – a three per cent increase on the previous year. That is projected to grow to 5.2 million tonnes by 2020.

“China is a market where lamb is less established. There are lower levels of spontaneous awareness,’’ Ms Sharp said.

“The major barriers to lamb has been the perceived nutrition profile – it is seen as being too fatty.

“The medium to longer term challenge is to shift those perceptions of Chinese nutritionists,” she said.

“Lamb is not seen as particularly versatile – we need to demonstrate lamb can be used in many meals and educate on the difference to goat.’’

Australia is the largest supplier of imported goat meat into China, accounting for a 96pc market share over the past 12 months.

Ms Sharp said the challenge was to ensure importers and wholesalers in the supply chain were aware of the differences between Australian lamb and goat.

“Rapid changes in the retail sector presents significant opportunities for red meat,’’ she said.

Modern supermarket style retailing now accounts for 40pc of overall grocery retail sales in China.

Ms Sharp said on-line grocery and food sales growth was rapid, comprising 12pc of the market in 2015. This is projected to grow to 17pc by 2018.

“This number of on-line shoppers is great news for us because we do expect to see significant growth in the number of internet connected consumers buying their groceries on-line.

“Many of these consumers will aspire to and continue to seek out imported branded products in particular,’’ she said.

“In order to support this, there will need to be significant investment in cold chain logistics to ensure the safe delivery of groceries and meat on-line.

“Websites and social media are a cost effective means for us to communicate Australian lamb’s product attributes and points of superiority in a vast market.’’

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