Customer focus sells NZ salmon

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 16:00 31/10/2012

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Developing relationships with retailers, targeting the top end of the market and understanding consumers are key for New Zealand exporters, according to New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne.

Mr Rosewarne spoke to 70 Marlborough business people about the company at the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and BNZ Partners' Speaker Series in Blenheim yesterday.

The company, which provides 55 per cent of the world's supply of king salmon, has turnover of $120 million a year, or $23m per surface hectare in the Marlborough Sounds, he said.

All its fish are farmed in the Marlborough Sounds and processed in Nelson.

He repeated the company mantra that its farming method is the most environmentally sustainable animal protein production in the world.

This "holistic" approach is passed on to retailers and consumers through the company branding, packaging and marketing.

This had been key to business success when salmon prices were at an all-time low, he said.

Targeting Michelin three-star restaurants had helped build their reputation for providing high value, premium quality salmon.

"We came from the top and it became very efficient as other chefs and restaurateurs bought into that same story."

Getting their salmon on menus for a premium price was also achieved by hiring sales people from their key markets in the United States, Japan and Australia, he said. For example, Shinpoh in Japan bought 50 tonnes of smoked salmon a year, which went through a network of 80 distributors before reaching the customer.

"Since we've employed people in Japan, we've got a much clearer view of what's going on out there," he said.

"If we don't know who's buying our product, we've got no hope of matching up with their needs and, as a result, of getting those premium prices."

Another key change had been adopting a full-service retailing strategy.

This included tuning their marketing and product placement to match the demographics of customers at each individual store.

They have also assigned a separate account manager to each of their large retailers to get their trust, he said.

King Salmon's retailers freely shared their sales data, which enabled them to work together to keep the store's inventory down, reduce their working capital and increase their sales.

"If you do this sort of thing you can earn your retailer tens of millions of dollars.

"When you do that for them they give you carte blanche to do whatever you want."

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- The Marlborough Express

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