Article – 'Elite Chinese meat market beckons'

13 June 2015
Andrea Crothers
Queensland Country Life

BURGEONING opportunities for Queensland beef and lamb producers to leverage branded meat products in premium Chinese markets have been re-emphasised in a research report published by the University of Queensland.

The report, Premium Australian Meat in Chinese Food Service: A Study in Shanghai & Hong Kong, was delivered on Friday by six final-year UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences agribusiness students, who had completed the market research study over 12 weeks.

Course lecturer Dr Phil Currey said the project sought to gain a more thorough understanding of the Chinese fine food service, including that provided by four and five-star hotels.

“The students had a number of objectives including identifying opportunities and challenges within the sector, getting feedback on Australia’s relative performance in that sector, and assessing Australia’s current level of effectiveness as assessed by the Chinese chefs themselves,” Dr Currey said.

The project culminated in a study trip to China where the students interviewed 28 chefs from premium dining venues throughout Hong Kong and Shanghai.

All interviewees used imported meats and Australian beef and lamb were popular.

No Australian pork was used, although it was seen on retail shelves in Hong Kong.

Dr Currey said the research’s key finding was the demand for improved relationships with producers.

“Chefs have a strong desire for more knowledge of farms, production methods and processes which to me translates into opportunities for farm-owned brands in China,” Dr Currey said.

“They have to be brands made by groups of farmers that are large enough to put together a serious portfolio for this sort of project.”

This was outlined in the report’s recommendation to “create an active presence within the market”.

“Australian brands need to differentiate themselves in order to stand out among the competition,” the report noted. “This needs to be done as part of an effective ‘Brand Australia’ campaign. Such campaigns should include characteristics of the Australian meat products such as: fresh, clean, ethical, safe.”

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) launched the True Aussie label last year, with a focus on promoting the agricultural industry’s “clean, green image”.

It was developed by MLA in conjunction with the cattle, sheepmeat and goat industry representative bodies – the Cattle Council of Australia, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association, the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and the Goat Industry Council of Australia.

The label is already used in key export markets including China, Europe and the United States.

However, UQ’s report showed respondents were critical of Australia’s “lack of industry presence in China”.

“They had received very little support from Australian producers and trade organisations compared with the promotional efforts being invested in other areas including the Middle East,” it read.

Dr Currey said the findings highlighted his thought that “Australian producers are missing out on an opportunity because they are continuing to market and distribute meat through traditional supply chains”.

The research was conducted with funding from Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Pork Australia Ltd, Naturally Australian Meat & Game and UQ.

MLA was contacted for comment, but did not respond by time of publication.
The university hopes to expand on the study, organising another group of students to spend the next semester researching Queensland sheepmeat, beef and pork producers to gauge the appetite in Australia for pursuing branded labelling.

UQ Agribusiness students delivered findings from research into the Chinese premium food market. Pictured are Nancy Gray, Wallumbilla, Ren Ang, Singapore, Jack Pearlman, North Star, NSW, Sally Fang, Beijing, Jack Deardon, Roma, and UQ’s Dr Phil Currey. Absent: Amelia Kuiken, Toowoomba. – Picture: OLIVIA PIAT.
  • If any producers are interested in taking part in the next stage of research email Dr Phil Currey at p.currey@uq.edu.au

Courtesy of Queensland Country Life

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