Friday, 27 June 2014

The importance of France to our beef and sheep exports

Global demand for high quality UK beef and lamb is well documented, with EBLEX working alongside Government and other organisations such as UKTI to help secure access to new markets.

However, well-established markets and their significance shouldn’t be underestimated. A case in point is France – specifically the work of our team, based across the Channel, who work to ensure our produce is clearly identified with focus on its high quality and reaches as many consumers as possible.

Based at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) office in Fontainebleau, Carole Rivière, Josée Hofstetter and Catherine Jeffery, under the leadership of export manager Rémi Fourrier, carry out a range of activities to promote Quality Standard beef and lamb to French consumers.

Typically, this includes trade advertising, events, demonstrations and information in supermarkets, field marketing activities and consumer communication. When you stop to think about it, and the historical issues there have been with French farmers defending their own products, this is no small challenge.

Why such focus on France then? Simply, it’s a vitally important export market, particularly for sheep meat. France is by far the biggest destination for UK exports of sheep meat. They are lovers of sheep meat but only around 36 per cent self-sufficient so rely on imports. In 2013, it accounted for 52 per cent of our export market for sheep meat, taking 54,000 tonnes of product from the UK – an increase of three per cent on the year. The value of those exports was £214.5 million – an increase of eight per cent on the year.

The Fontainebleau team are well placed to maintain French demand for our product. For example, the website www.ilovemeat.fr showcases an array of features such as where to find products, nutritional value and specialist cutting guides for professionals in the industry. Coupled with the team’s Facebook page, providing recipe ideas and images and video from key events, the French office provides a comprehensive information and networking service for both consumers and industry professionals.

Of course, there’s nothing like showcasing your product on the ground and Carole has established an enviable network of contacts with butchers in all major supermarket chains to help promote sales of lamb. This includes in-store tasting and electronic information stands showcasing recipes to potential customers. Last year, for example, demonstrations were coordinated in 143 supermarkets throughout France. This continues to play a key role in winning the hearts and minds of French consumers.

But it’s not just all about sheep meat. The French team also coordinates the Rosbifs Club where members, all lovers of beef, include chefs, journalists and other industry professionals taking part in events and promoting our beef to the French market. The club’s Facebook page also highlights the club’s activities in promoting our beef to French consumers.

As with most things, you tend to get out what you put into them. Access to new markets is clearly important as the UK maintains its position as a true global player in the international meat market. Sustaining and cultivating markets once open demands a concerted effort and dedication. The example set in France is an excellent barometer to gauge how to maximise the potential for exports of UK beef and lamb.

Further information on the Rosbifs Club can be found by visiting www.rosbifsclub.com. More details about AHDB’s French office can be found by visiting www.ilovemeat.fr.