Growing market for organic meat thwarted

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 14:40 28/01/2014
Simon Ericson and Mark Hunter
DIANE BISHOP/Fairfax NZ
Neat Meat managing director Simon Ericson, left, and Harmony Foods managing director Mark Hunter.

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More organic meat is required to meet growing consumer demand, say two Auckland-based meat suppliers.

Neat Meat managing director Simon Ericson and Harmony managing director Mark Hunter have big plans to grow the organic market. But, they told farmers at an organic field day at Kilbrannan Farm in the Te Anau Basin, they needed more product to make this a reality.

Ericson grew up on a Gisborne sheep and beef farm and admits to farming "dead meat" now.

He established Neat Meat in Auckland's Ponsonby in 2001 and two years later helped develop the Angus Pure brand.

Five years ago he persuaded his friend Mark Hunter to leave his accounting job and together they bought Harmony, which specialised in free-range pork.

While Neat Meat supplies meat to restaurants, hotels and catering companies, Harmony's focus is on supplying meat to the retail sector.

"Our biggest constraint is getting a big enough supply," Ericson said.

Harmony had since moved from "growing the best pork in the world" to repositioning itself, with significant investment, in the organic beef and lamb market.

Sales increased four-fold over the past 4 1/2 years from a low base but they were still chasing supply, Hunter said.

The biggest growth in retail had been in the Auckland market. Six of the city's New World supermarkets were certified to take organic produce, with Remuera, Victoria Park and Devonport being the largest.

"We envisage more and more New Worlds becoming certified," he said.

Harmony also supplied some of the higher-value beef and lamb cuts, such as steaks and lamb racks, to restaurants.

"Food service is more focused on cost and organic is not as important to them."

Harmony also exported product to Hong Kong and Singapore and there was potential to grow the market in Hong Kong, where lamb was preferred to beef.

"Consumers are a lot more aware about organic food now.

"There's a real potential to satisfy organic demand," he said.

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- The Southland Times

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