New Zealand venison gets boost from Sweden

Jul 21, 2023

New Zealand venison got a boost from Sweden last week, when Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and minister of trade and export growth Damien O’Connor met their trade counterparts at a special event, a day after signing the NZ-EU free trade agreement (FTA).

Meeting Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (centre) are (left to right) Gustaf Kugelberg (Mountain River Venison, Shannon Campbell (DINZ), Tom Simpson (NZ Pies) and Damien O’Connor, minister for trade and export growth.

Swedish trade and development minister Johan Forssell, the New Zealand Prime Minister and O’Connor were among 35 guests at the select event from the worlds of diplomacy, government and media, ahead of the Prime Minister’s attendance at the NATO Leader’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The 45-minute food and tasting event, hosted by the New Zealand Ambassador to Sweden David Taylor and arranged by Mountain River Venison, was held at Stockholm’s historic Hasselbacken restaurant. This has been in operation since the 18th century and since 2019 has been owned by a company co-owned by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus.

Mingling guests sampled New Zealand venison canapés, organised by Gustaf Kugelberg of Mountain River Venison and the restaurant, alongside NZ Pies and various New Zealand wines.

The event’s purpose was to “support business involved in the promotion of New Zealand food and wine in Sweden and beyond in the Nordic region,” explained Taylor.

Hipkins thanked Sweden for its support for the NZ-EU FTA, which will ease trade for companies importing and exporting to the bloc. This will happen once the FTA comes into force, probably in the middle of 2024, after ratification by both Parliaments.

New Zealand venison was showcased to the visitors by Mountain River Venison’s Gustaf Kugelberg (left) chef Patrik Winterberg and Damien O’Connor (right).

DINZ has been monitoring developments and notes the New Zealand deer industry’s exports to the EU will be unaffected after ratification. The main things it will be keeping an eye out for will be any non-tariff barriers impacting exports, particularly around animal welfare, labour and environmental expectations.

However, after DINZ’ support for its marketing efforts in Sweden, through the Marketing Innovation Fund in 2022, the additional support and focus from government on marketing New Zealand products in Scandinavia “will be beneficial,” says Mountain River Venison marketing director John Sadler, who expects the “accumulation of effort to pay off over time.” The Ambassador and trade commissioner Hearsey, “are very helpful,” he says.

Later, Kugelberg and DINZ contract chef Shannon Campbell attended a round table discussion with the trade minister, “where we talked about what we do at DINZ and how we think they could help as well as the opportunities opened up through the FTA,” reports Campbell.

The agriculture minister was “impressed with our farm-to-plate and retail concepts,” says Kugelberg, who felt “well supported” by New Zealand agriculture minister Damien O’Connor’s enthusiasm for what Mountain River is doing in Sweden.

It was one of many opportunities that have been taken this game season in Europe to present New Zealand venison to existing and potential customers.

Capitalising on opportunities

Germany-based Campbell, contracted by DINZ and made available to support exporters’ culinary promotional activities, has been “really active” in Europe and elsewhere this year, notes DINZ market manager Rhys Griffiths.

“He’s been out there, working alongside the venison companies to capitalise on opportunities,” he says.

“Europe remains vitally important to the New Zealand deer industry as we seek greater diversification of customers in affluent markets and we have supported the work of New Zealand exporters and some of their key customers to promote venison in higher-value sales channels.”

In addition to the Swedish embassy event, Campbell was also on hand in Sweden at the end of March/early-April for Mountain River Venison’s demonstrations for Menigo and Martin and Severa’s, two of its Swedish distributors’ clients and sales teams.

Other channels in which venison marketers have used Campbell’s services this year, include working with foodservice customers in Germany, Benelux and Switzerland, where DINZ has been involved in six separate promotional projects between March and July.

In Germany, this included presentations at the Internorga trade fair in March, a “kitchen party” for German Michelin-starred Clostermannshof restaurants, Wörndle/Grand Chef’s ‘Taste of Meat’ house fair for its customers and sales teams and at the New Zealand ambassador’s residence in Berlin.

Venison marketers have also been active in The Netherlands, where Campbell was called in to promote venison at  the opening of a new Hanos store in Maastricht in mid-April, supporting First Light customers.

In June, he was in Switzerland, on tour with specialist meat importer CASIC showcasing New Zealand venison to new clients via a 12-course menu “showing the full range of products from cheeks to sweetbreads to more classic cuts,” he reports.

Campbell will also be supporting several importing companies at the massive Anuga trade fair that will take place in Cologne, Germany in October.

Prospects for venison in Europe are “reasonably stable for the chilled season ahead,” says Griffiths, noting falling prices for other proteins may put pressure on further price lifts. 

“Venison producers should keep close to their venison company as the season progresses.  Many have locked in contracts at better prices than last year, with some peaking at over $10/kg during the peak chilled supply period.”

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