Flaming start to game season for NZ Venison BBQ Week

Sep 14, 2023

NZ Venison BBQ Week got off to a flaming start in the UK last week, with activities taking place around the world to raise awareness of premium New Zealand venison.

The chefs were busy at the New Zealand venison grill. Photo: Shannon Campbell.

Alliance Group hosted the first event of the week, a spectacular fire and smoke event at Roam Woodside in Salisbury for 10 top chefs. All were culinary industry leaders, some of them Michelin-starred, others corporate chefs for large groups, or development chefs for well-known retail chains.

“They had plenty of toys to play with,” reports coordinator and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) contract chef Shannon Campbell who supported the “phenomenal” event on behalf of DINZ.

Big Green Egg and Ofyr supplied a whole range of new barbecue tools, with which the chefs were tasked to work their magic in groups of four. They created menus using a primal cut of Alliance’s Pure South New Zealand venison, a dish using venison mince, a side dish and dessert too. The food was matched to Babich wines.

Venison sausage rolls with harissa, rosemary and venison loin with cherries in a Shiraz and fennel sauce and venison cutlets with smoked tomato and pepper and a herby potato were among the “absolutely incredible” results, reports Alliance regional marketing manager for the UK, EU and Middle East Gemma Baldwin.

“One of the chefs even made souffles for dessert in a Big Green Egg!” she says, adding the team has “had such positive feedback from all of the chefs.

“They learned so much about the versatility of our venison and flavour profiles, with a couple also commenting on how they could see New Zealand venison appealing to a young, more adventurous demographic.”

It was a “truly inspiring day” in the company of “our country’s finest chefs in a beautiful location with the finest produce, wine and beer,” the Hilton Hotel’s executive chef Stuart Duff, reported on Instagram.

The Salisbury event was the first of many creative culinary initiatives that ran during the week, with Instagram the main hub of activities, with Facebook second.

In the north of Germany, distributor Citti ran a promotion in each of their three mega stores showcasing New Zealand venison and barbecues. Chef customers entered their best grill ideas via an Instagram post, to possibly win themselves a brand-new grill and “a box of venison treats to treat their friends,” reports Campbell.

Campbell also teamed up with the Instagram celebrity butcher @thesausagemanneversleeps in a social media campaign run through in-market partners and DINZ own channels.

“It gave some lucky people the chance to win their own BBQ packs, including venison sausages made by the legend himself,” he says. A charcoal-fuelled BBQ event crowned off the week at the butcher’s newly EU-certified butchery.

Even Michelin-starred chefs like venison snarlers on the barbie!

Venison marketing companies were also busy elsewhere in Europe. Silver Fern Farms gave away a premium barbecue package of cooler with a selection of venison cuts, plus a Porshe knife, cookbook and spice mix, while Alliance Group’s Ashley Venison brand ran an Instagram prize draw. Distributors, like Schoonderwoerd and Luiten Foods, were also running their own social media campaigns, as the latter said online, “placing New Zealand venison in the spotlight.”

Sierra Meats’ Durham Ranch brand was active on Instagram in the USA, while in China, the initiator of Venison BBQ Week, Hunter McGregor was also drawing attention to New Zealand venison. “It’s a tough job but someone has to do it,” his Instagram post read.

While the main emphasis was international, there was also action in New Zealand including prize draws from and Merchant of Venison.

These activities have given additional profile for New Zealand venison, complementing marketers’ promotional programmes, raising awareness at the start of the traditional Northern Hemisphere game season.

DINZ is now looking at the coverage and the co-operation among marketers and DINZ, “to see what has been most effective and to build on the strengths for next year,” explains markets manager Rhys Griffiths.

Chilled performing well

#nzvenisonbbqweek has taken place against a backdrop of continued strong demand and firmer prices for chilled venison, compared to other red meats.

All five venison marketers have been offering minimum price chilled contracts of between $10.10-10.30 per kg through September to the first weeks of October, about $1 above last year, with some offering contract prices for a longer period, through into the Autumn.  

Mountain River Venison’s John Sadler was quoted in NZ Farmers Weekly offering longer-term certainty for suppliers: “Our chilled contract pricing is clearly over the $10 mark and we are aiming for $9.50 as our premium schedule price though until the end of May 2024,” he said.

The contract prices are well ahead of the published schedule prices, which continue to average at $8.82/kg.

The news comes with the caveat that venison marketers are working to mitigate deteriorating global economic conditions. Increasing quantities of meat from other countries and now a downturn in China are combining to place downward pressure on red meat prices.

Marketers will know more after talking to their key European and Middle Eastern customers at the Anuga trade fair in Köln next month (7-11 October).

Venison marketers have done a great job in diversifying their customer base and building more contracted business, “but venison may not be immune from the global malaise,” cautions DINZ chief executive Innes Moffat.

Venison producers need to “keep close to their  marketing company to keep informed about the outlook for the new year.”

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