23 November 2015
Aside from the dairy industry, New Zealand exporters generally can’t compete on volume. An alternative is to compete on quality.
That’s the niche we’re creating at Mt Cook Alpine Salmon. Our 1100-tonne-a year harvest is dwarfed by countries like Norway, which matches New Zealand’s annual salmon production every week. Selling protein won’t make us a profit. Building a luxury food brand will.
It's all about tasteWhile Atlantic salmon accounts for 90% of the global market, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon produces Freshwater King salmon. It’s very different in texture and taste to sea-farmed salmon, and is regularly preferred in blind taste tests we conduct around the world.
More than 75% of our revenue comes from exports, with the US being our biggest market. Our fresh chilled product is airfreighted weekly to high-end restaurants and food stores in Australia, Dubai, Singapore, China and the US West Coast. In addition to fresh, we also ship snapfrozen fillets and portions to markets around the world. Our product ‘refreshes’ so well even top chefs can’t distinguish the difference.
A helping handWhen entering new markets, we have been greatly assisted by government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Primary industries (MPI) and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). MPI certifies that our fish meets the specific requirements of individual export markets, which has been critical in terms of our entry into Dubai 15 months ago.
NZTE have people in situ who know the language and culture, and understand the supply chain and how to reach customers. They helped us identify key seafood distributors in Dubai. In China, where we’ve been cautiously exporting for 18 months, they’ve provided office space and translators.
Understanding the market
There’s always someone willing to be your distributor in China, but getting into the wrong relationship can be costly.
We’re quietly feeling our way, getting to understand the competition and learning about the culture and the logistics of getting a perishable product into the right high-end market –and not someone just looking for an ‘orange’ fish.
Gaining a toehold in a new market takes time and money. Sending your senior people –who can make key on-the-spot decisions –shows your commitment to new clients and that you value their business. There’s no substitute for spending time in these markets yourself.
Showing our advantage
What’s also been extremely effective for us is bringing customers down to Twizel to see first-hand our operations at the foot of the Southern Alps, and showing them our first-class processing plant in Timaru. US customers in particular want to know that their suppliers are everything they claim to be. The only way to truly show what we do is to bring them here to see the processes, fish husbandry, care and traceability; they meet the people and experience our genuine Kiwi hospitality. It’s very powerful.
We are establishing Mt Cook Alpine Salmon as the world’s prestige salmon brand, built on its superior taste and we’re also exploring opportunities for value-add offerings that will support and demonstrate our luxury brand positioning.