For a nation of people nicknamed after a bird, it’s not surprising one of our favourite meals would be another bird. But Kiwis are far from alone in our love of poultry, and Tegel is making the most of New Zealand’s reputation for premium food products to expand its export markets.
A household name here, Tegel is New Zealand’s market-leading poultry producer. Its 1200-plus products include fresh and frozen whole birds, portions and fillets, as well as value-added items such as filled crumbed breast fillets, kebabs, smoked chicken, nuggets, schnitzels and burgers.
The big OE
Over the last decade, Tegel has been developing its export markets, focusing first on the Pacific, before entering Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and now the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Its export success was highlighted recently when the company was named New Zealand’s Supreme Exporter at the 2014 Air New Zealand Cargo Export NZ awards, just 11 years after it began export operations.
In the last three years, Tegel has doubled its exports to around $100 million annually, which accounts for over 20 percent of its sales, says Christine Cash, Tegel Foods’ general manager sales & marketing.
“Quality and provenance play a huge part in export success. Tegel is a premium brand internationally, selling the story of Pure New Zealand Premium Chicken. Lean, fresh-tasting chicken, combined with lack of exotic poultry diseases is a recipe for success with consumers.”
Off to the Middle East
The UAE is a significant new market for Tegel, and choosing the right products for export there was critical. Fresh air-freighted chicken has been an important starting point in the UAE, and since May this year Tegel has been selling its ‘Pure New Zealand Premium Chicken’ through the leading local supermarket chain Spinneys.
“In the UAE, Tegel doesn’t have the brand recognition it does at home, so our emphasis on ‘Pure New Zealand Premium Chicken’ is supported with consumers through education and store demonstrations. Tasting is believing, and forms a large part of tactical market activation,” says Cash.
The launch into the UAE market will be an important platform for further expansion into the Middle East, and this is vital given Tegel’s investment in gaining market access and achieving halal certification.
Access is everything
In order to export to UAE, Tegel had to go through a complete company-wide halal transition programme. While its New Plymouth processing plant was already halal certified, the company was required to switch to a new local halal certifier for UAE market access.
“It’s been a comprehensive 18-month project with significant capital investment to get the first of our products into the Middle East,” explains Cash. “From equipment changes to ingredient certification and staff training, Tegel has almost completed the project to ensure our products are fully compliant to required halal standards for the UAE and other markets.”
However, before any of this could begin, Tegel needed to secure market access into UAE. Exporting poultry is made more complicated by the lack of negotiated OMARs (Overseas Market Access Requirements) between New Zealand and many other countries.
“For poultry, market access isn’t a given,” says Cash. “In fact, there are very few international markets we can export to, so it’s not just about sending another product to a different country – it takes significant time and government-to-government negotiation.”
New Zealand has had negotiated OMARS in place for red meat and dairy for decades, but poultry is a fairly recent export. Tegel continues to work with the Ministry for Primary Industries and other key government partners to ensure plans are in place for future poultry OMAR negotiations. The UAE market for poultry finally opened in 2013, clearing the way for Tegel to export there.
Advice and connections
At every part of Tegel’s export expansion, considerable effort goes into evaluating and understanding how things are tracking. The company’s four-stage market-entry model involves identifying and researching new markets; engaging with potential partners in those markets; before selecting suitable products for each market, and setting up the logistics and delivery methods to get them to market.
Assistance from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has been an invaluable part of Tegel’s exporting success, says Cash, providing critical market research information and networking opportunities in market.
“The role NZTE has played for us in UAE – and other markets – has been incredibly significant in terms of market support, networking and meeting with customers, and securing relationships that will be beneficial to both Tegel and New Zealand going forward.”
Tegel’s export plans involve expanding further into the Middle East and Asian markets.