The Omega Lamb Project is now over halfway through its journey as a Primary Growth Partnership.
We have been reflecting about what has been achieved to date and also considering what will be the legacy of the project. Management and the Board agree there are three broad areas that define the legacy:
Novel Supply Chain – TE MANA LAMB is founded on customer voice. We have listened to our chefs and understand what they want; not just superior quality but stories that tell the provenance of the product. It is also about proprietary genetics controlling the type of animals that create TE MANA LAMB. And it is about specialist on-farm systems, supply chain transparency, collaboration and smart processing technologies. This has resulted in a significant and novel supply chain for all participants in the programme.
Market Ownership – TE MANA LAMB has secured ownership of the Tier 1 food service category for lamb – not just as a premium product but one that has inspired a lamb renaissance with chefs creating new recipes from scratch. TE MANA LAMB also participates where relevant in high-end retail.
Ongoing HHA Viability – HHA is an enduring vehicle and exemplar of connection between consumer, customer, processor and farmer. HHA continues to manage commercial tension, transparency, and the investment in innovation, ensuring long term viability, with farmers appropriately rewarded for their effort.
These areas are seen as the legacy of what we believe will be achieved as this supply chain scales up.
Moving into 2020, the project has contracted most of the livestock required for deliveries. The big challenge will be 2021 when we’ll be lifting volumes and that will require extra effort and organisation by everyone.
Thank you for your support this year and enjoy the break with your family over the festive season.
Rennie Davidson General Manager
On Farm: Mark O'Connor, Headwaters
It’s been a busy few weeks getting all our supplier contracts signed and sealed and feeding them into Alliance Group for their processing schedule.
Contracts for grass-fed supply have also been circulated and we’re looking for 25,000 lambs to go into up-market retail brands.
Over the next few weeks, the focus will be on getting the flow of lambs onto the chicory and into processing. The biggest challenge will be getting the numbers through so farmers should keep up good communication with Warren around numbers of store lambs or lambs on chicory to ensure a reliable flow of information to Alliance Group.
We’ve also completed a series of regional meetings with our farmers around the North Island and in Canterbury, Cromwell and Gore. There have been strong turnouts and a positive and proactive response from our farmers, which gives us real confidence.
We’re currently developing an Omega Lamb Project information booklet that will provide a much needed resource for educating and helping to bring new farmers on board.
Meanwhile, nearly 1500 lambs from 100 rams in the progeny test are now on the ground across three different farms. The focus of the testis on consumer-eating quality and the research design for this phase of the tests is underway and will involve recruiting up to 200 people for the taste trials.
It’s certainly been a big year of change for everyone involved as the project transitions into a commercial enterprise. We are in a good position and starting to see the fruits of all our hard work.
As we all know, it’s a busy time of year on the farm. Nature doesn’t stop for Christmas – so enjoy the season and keep working behind the scenes to get the lambs through.
Headwaters 0800 RAM211 (726 211) firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Martynova 020 4179 3247
Warren Leslie 027 414 3769 email@example.com
Mark O'Connor 027 4700006 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Douglas 027 368 4529 email@example.com
Marty Deans 027 228 155 firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Saunders (Chair) 021 388 544 email@example.com
Dave Harper 027 252 9040 firstname.lastname@example.org
Deb Pankhurst 027 647 6771 email@example.com
Tony Plunkett 021 930 171 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rennie Davidson 027 437 4444
Market News: Mike Teen, Alliance Group
We’ve had an excellent month in New Zealand, selling out of oyster shoulder, rump and loin and getting very low on racks. This reflects the pent-up demand for TE MANA LAMB, firmly positioned as the premium product of choice in the food service sector. With December and January sales both looking very strong, we’re looking forward to getting new season lamb out there as quickly as possible.
At last count, TE MANA LAMB is listed on the menus of more than 100 restaurants around the country – and growing. Watch this space for a new tally in January.
Interest is growing in China off the back of our successful launch. We’ve dispatched another rapid order to cater for the strong flow of demand from restaurants and hotels in Shanghai and Beijing. We’re now working on 2020 sales forecasts -- it’s important we get that right. China is very keen but has unique labelling requirements so forecasts and stock supply must be carefully managed. Meanwhile, sales volumes remain steady in Singapore. With the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong and consequential impact on the food services sector, there are no sales going through there at present. However, we are now exploring some exciting new prospects in the wider Asian market.
Sales are gaining momentum in this market as a direct dividend of the work being done on the ground to build relationships with distributors and the food services sector. We have secured a high-profile listing for TE MANA LAMB with Bavel, Los Angeles Restaurant of the Year 2019. It is offering an exotic offering of TE MANA LAMB with herb sauce, wild arugula, snap peas, sesame and sumac vinaigrette. Meanwhile, we have a key opportunity for grass fed Omega lambs with a significant company for Easter supply. We’ll be looking to get samples up there very soon.
It has been another good sales month for the UK. Some cuts have run out and our food service team there is looking forward to getting new season stock. We are also pursuing a new grass-fed opportunity with another retailer in the UK.
Sales are set to start in January and February in Australia and we believe the market will grow quickly off that. We have gained a lot of traction with an agent on the ground working alongside our New Zealand team and now have three large distributors. Once we get the first sales through there, we expect momentum to continue to build.
Bavel, Los Angeles
Meet the team
Tess McCawe, Investment Manager, Investment Programmes/Agriculture & Investment Services for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Tess is part of MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibres Futures Investment Programme focused on seeing the Crown’s investment projects achieve premiums, differentiate New Zealand products – and benefit everyone in the value chain.
“With the Omega Lamb Project, that starts with farmers, but we also see wider benefits for New Zealand,” says Tess
As Investment Manager, she represents MPI on The Omega Lamb Project and is a member of the governance group. Her roles include monthly meetings and quarterly face-to-face meetings as well as liaising with the programme manager around meeting requirements of Crown investment.
“It is an unusual governance role because we are not simply administering a grant; it is a partnership – we are bringing more than just funding to the table.
“I really enjoy my involvement. My background is a mix of public and private sector, so this is the ideal combination of working in both the public and private arena. It is very rewarding to see public money being used for innovation. You really feel you are part of creating a better future for all New Zealanders.”
Tess says it is critical with all MPI programmes to understand the need to keep the big picture in mind.
“We understand the huge commitment required of Headwaters farmers to do things differently, use new production systems, and most importantly to have that long-term view.
“We are very encouraged by the response from global markets to TE MANA LAMB – most recently from the United States.
“With any new premium product, it takes time to build traction in markets but TE MANA LAMB is so different from normal lamb and is attracting diners who don’t even usually care for lamb.”
Tess says the MPI team believes The Omega Lamb Project has immense potential to be the ‘ultimate lamb’ in top restaurants around the world.
“It also has an important part to play in growing international awareness of New Zealand produce and in placing our producers in that 'high-premium’ position.”