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Update from Rennie Davidson

Covid-19 continues to disrupt our key global markets, and in particular, the food service sector channel. However, there have been some positive sales developments in the United States retail market, home delivery in Hong Kong and the food service segment in Taiwan. 
There was a generally positive mood at The Muster with a good open exchange and a recognition of the uncertainty and volatility over the next 12 months. 
We have completed the Business plan and Primary Growth Partnership plan and the key themes are cost reduction, revenue growth and supply chain transparency. This is all critical given the environment we are operating in. 
The focus for the chicory brand repositioning is three-fold: rigorous standards, meticulous process and passionate people. 
Work is underway on our Instagram presence with an increased focus on on-farm content. This is being co-ordinated by Claire Smith and Jane Mulholland. If you have any ideas or content, please let Jane or Claire know. 
As we get ready for the new season, we will be letting you know about tags, contracts and improved performance information, but please get in touch with Warren if you have any questions.
Finally, what’s really pleasing is that despite the challenges, we will finish the year in line with our forecast. That’s a credit to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in The Omega Lamb Project.
Jamie Mackay a big fan of Te Mana Lamb

Te Mana Lamb was the star of the show at the broadcasting of Jamie Mackay’s The Country radio show last month. Omega Lamb Project farmers Scott, Stephen and Helen Rome hosted Jamie at their farm in Riversdale as part of a promotion with Emerson’s Brewery. Chef Graham Hawkes cooked Te Mana Lamb on the BBQ for the guests. A big thanks to the Romes’ for accommodating Jamie and his crew. 
Chef Graham Hawkes being interviewed by Jamie Mackay
Chef Graham Hawkes with The Country producer Rowena Duncum and Jamie Mackay
Feedback from the Muster

For the first time, the annual Headwaters Muster was combined with The Omega Lamb Project end of season forum.

“It was a great Muster,” says Farmers’ Working Group chairman Dave Harper. “People may not have been feeling very buoyant at the start after a tough year, but the feedback I got was that people left in a much more positive mood. I think that getting everyone together helped create a strong sense of unity. 

“The presentations brought everyone up to date with where we are at, particularly with the COVID-19 situation, and set out clearly what the path forward is and that there are good reasons to be optimistic for this season and for next year.

“I’d also encourage as many as possible to come to the regional meetings. There is going to be a really strong focus on what we can all do to get as many Te Mana lambs in the box as possible. That includes keeping records well and making sure the lambs turn up at the appropriate place, at the appropriate time, with the appropriate documentation.”

Farmers' Working Group

The terms of reference for the Farmers’ Working Group requires members to stand down by rotation. There has been a good response to the request for expressions of interest for new members to replace those who will be stepping down. A Zoom meeting has been scheduled for 21 October and a full meeting of potential members will be held on 4 November. 
Upcoming farmer field days

Two farmer field days are scheduled. These are at:
  • Stephen, Scott and Helen Rome’s Waifield Farm at Riversdale, near Gore on Tuesday 3 November at 12 noon 
  • Dave and Pam Gardner’s Melford Hills farm at Waimate on Wednesday 4 November at 12 noon
Invites with exact details will be sent out shortly.
Both farms are long time participants in The Omega Lamb Project. David and Pam are breeders and won the breeders’ award at our recent Muster. Stephen, Scott and Helen are dedicated finishers.
Both field days will include looking around the respective farms and learning about the farming operations, along with a catch-up about Omega Lamb Project priorities for the coming season.  

It’s time to order your tags. These must be ordered centrally, so we can keep good track of them. Allflex NZ have given us a good price. Please contact Supply Manager Warren Leslie (027 414 3769) if you have any questions about tags.
Lamb Supply Contracts

As we go to print, the supply contracts for 2020/21 season are being finalised and will be with you in the next few weeks.

Leveraging the Alliance Livestock team

Headwaters and Alliance Group will be working closely together to make sure everyone knows their role and ensuring the system runs as efficiently as possible, with no doubling up of tasks. Alliance Group’s livestock reps will organise the booking of processing space, so please work with them directly on that. Our supply manager Warren Leslie should be the first port of call with any questions or issues. 

Taking advantage of the Alliance Handpicked Lamb programme in the 2020/21 season 

As discussed at the Muster, we will evaluate the market opportunity for non-chicory fed Omega lambs during the course of the next 12 months. Should any immediate opportunities be identified, we may trial a small volume, however for the purposes of planning for the coming year, we suggest having a look at the Alliance Handpicked Lamb programme, which offers a premium for qualifying lambs.

Update from our markets: Mike Teen

Although this has been the most difficult and extreme of sales years, the global team has still managed to deliver forecast targets that were set in March with the onset of Covid-19. This represents a huge effort all round and one that we are all extremely proud of. Looking forward, there are a lot of positives to note. As regions recover, the desire to eat out is still as strong as ever and customers are still willing to pay significant premiums for our product. In addition, the past eight months has proven that we can deliver sales through new and innovative channels - something that we hope to capitalise on further in the future.

Markets in Asia are bouncing back from Covid-19 lock downs and are generally positive across all key regions. Activity is returning to pre-Covid-19 levels and many markets are experiencing record Te Mana Lamb sell out months as consumers head back to white tablecloth restaurants.  

This is particularly the case in Taipei, which has seen orders escalate markedly in recent months. Te Mana Lamb is now listed in every Michelin-starred restaurant in the country and distributors there are beginning to consider the potential for sea-freight containers to fulfil future demand (current supply is airfreight). China continues to develop, with August being a record sell down month for our Shanghai distributor. Work continues to build on this success with expansion out into other Tier 1 Chinese cities. Hong Kong sales have been a bright point even throughout their period of domestic strife, with our distribution partner pivoting to on-line sales and finding huge success in this channel.  

Australia/New Zealand
The New Zealand market is nearly back to normal with Covid-19 lock down levels reducing significantly. Now, Auckland is back to Level 1, we expect to see good demand and sales countrywide.

A key development in the local market has been the release of Te Mana Lamb bacon to the food service sector. Samples have been distributed to 138 venues to date and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Chefs have been experimenting extensively with the product ahead of new summer menus, which are generally released in October/November and we are expecting to see good sales demand coming through from that. Interest from overseas market is very high, however due to regulatory restrictions on our bacon production facility, the product is only authorised for domestic sales. Once that demand is proven, we will look to rapidly convert our production to export-approved plants to meet international demand.

Australian sales have been hard hit by Covid-19, however we have been working with Queensland distributors and making some sales despite the continuing moderate restrictions in place. 

North America
Unfortunately, the United States West Coast food service market remains ‘shut’, with the triple effect of Covid-19, Black Lives Matter protests and major wildfires serving to effectively lock down all fine dining in the region. However, the team have been busy and a major success has been their pivot to high-end retail and the release of Te Mana in Erewhon supermakets across California. 

Erewhon is the premier ‘supermarket’ chain in North America and a favourite of Hollywood superstars. Going to them is as much a social event as what we would see as a typical supermarket outing.  Te Mana Lamb’s listing is a huge step in terms of its wider recognition and we expect to see strong sales development driving from this.

With our West Coast market effectively shut down, the North America team has taken the opportunity to initiate two major pieces of work outside of that initial market ‘beachhead’.  

The first of these is the initiation of a major study of the North American premium red meat market in association with the University of California.  As part of their 20 year old Global Assistance Programme (GAP), six mature UCLA students completing masters degrees in business are spending six months dissecting the US premium red meat market in order to further develop our North American sales strategy.  

Their particular focus for this study is on the Eastern Seaboard and Central US regions – areas that we will then look to use these insights for to expand sales eastwards across the country.  

The second major focus for the team has been to look further north to Canada for additional market development during Covid-19. Subsequent Te Mana sales into Canada have been extremely positive with restaurant listings supplemented by a new direct to consumer model being trialled off the back of a new sales website in market.

Unfortunately, while the UK market started to see some signs of recovery with the initiation of the Government’s’ eat out’ initiative, the current second wave of Covid-19 gripping the country has again seen Te Mana Lamb sales collapse with the fine dining sector effectively shut. 

As just one indicator of the seriousness of the situation facing the service sector - London hotel’s occupancy rates are down to 28% overall (usually 90%-plus this time of year), with luxury hotels down at just 10%.  In addition, most central London businesses are indicating they will not reopen offices until at least after winter, and with central city workers being the majority of restaurant trade, this again takes away a huge amount of custom.

As with other regions, the UK/Europe team is continuing to explore additional channels (super yachts), markets (continued push into mainland Europe) and products to drive sales in what is an exceptionally tough environment.
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Omega Lamb Project · PO Box 845 · Invercargill, 9840 · New Zealand

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