Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Beef & Lamb TV keeps industry in the picture with key information

Digital channels are playing an increasingly important role in how AHDB Beef & Lamb communicates with levy payers. This week’s guest blogger, AHDB Beef & Lamb Media Officer, Ben Coates, highlights the latest milestones and how we’re reaching as wide a levy payer audience as possible.
Media Officer, Ben Coates

Last weekend Beef & Lamb TV, our YouTube channel, passed the 100,000 mark in terms of video views, illustrating the growing importance of video as an industry communications tool.

Almost 50,000 of those views have been since January 1 this year, reflecting the growing amount of content we’re producing for levy payers and the wider industry. The weekend also saw the channel top the 500 subscribers mark.

Importantly, it reflects the growing and varied amount of content we are creating. From technical how-to clips and coverage of industry events, to market and industry information updates, there is clearly a strong appetite for what is being produced.

Video has universal appeal and provides an easily digestible format for viewers to access key information at the touch of a button. After all, I’m sure most of us have turned to YouTube to find out how to do something or catch up on what’s been happening at an event. The Beef and lamb industry is no different.

So, what has Beef & Lamb TV brought to the table? The simple answer is a one-stop showcase of what we’re doing for and with the industry to help enhance the profitability and sustainability of the English beef and lamb sector.

I work with AHDB Beef & Lamb’s Better Returns Programme (BRP) and knowledge transfer teams to generate ideas for technical clips. The wider communications team works with service areas across the organisation on a number of projects and often this throws up suggestions for new video content.

Our channel has also benefited from celebrity appearances, with Countryfile’s Adam Henson making a cameo at Beef Expo earlier this year. Temple Grandin has also graced the screen with key technical information.

Beef & Lamb TV also provides a great opportunity to shout about the work we do. Not everyone has a full understanding of the breadth of our work, such as trade development, exports, consumer marketing and knowledge transfer. 

Much of this work is summed up in Bitesize – our monthly video round-up show which gives a five minute summary of the industry. An infomercial produced by the Islam Channel has also been hosted on Beef & Lamb TV and performed really well with viewers who have an interest in this specific sector.

The key is maintaining this regular flow of easily accessible content which is relevant to our core audience to maintain a successful level of engagement. Viewers can also access our videos via the Beef & Lamb Lite app (available on Apple and Android). 

As I mentioned earlier the stats are encouraging. The 50,000 views since January 1, for example, equate to 124,000 minutes watched, which means that on average Beef & Lamb TV is being watched for more than 7.5 hours each day.

We will continue to add new content regularly which can of course be viewed on smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Acting as a forum to ‘Ask AHDB’ we are also planning to offer delegates to the AHDB Beef & Lamb Annual Conference on November 3 the chance to voice their thoughts and questions to us via video.

By working directly with the industry in this way, we will continue to produce the content levy payers want, not only to help out with practical advice and technical information, but also to ensure they are fully aware of the work we are doing on behalf of the sector in the domestic and global markets.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Team GB pipped to victory in the ultimate butchers challenge

The Rugby World Cup is now in full swing and the nation is banding together in hopes that we can use our home advantage to secure a victory. However England didn't just face stiff competition from the other four teams, including Australia in their group.  Should England be successful, they will also potentially compete against current world champions New Zealand.

But this isn’t the first time the home nation is has gone head-to-head with their antipodean counterparts. Earlier this month Team GB took on both of these countries in the 2015 Tri-Nations Butchers’ Challenge in a closely-fought contest of skill and innovation, which saw current champions, New Zealand, pipcar our boys to the top spot for a third year.

The victors hosted this year’s tournament, the culmination of a five-day study tour which ended with the contest, held at Shed 10 in Auckland. Following many months of refining their skills, the intense competition was three hours long and saw the three six-man teams turn a side of beef, pork and a whole lamb into value-added cuts to produce a world-class display based around a typically English theme, the much-loved English tea party.

The British Beefeaters, a team of six of the nation’s best butchers, were selected after a nomination process which attracted more than 20 entrants from around the country. All those who applied were invited to the trials, held at the IFE in London back in March. Faced with the tough job of whittling 20 down to just six was no easy task for the expert judges, however soon the best six were selected and the practice began.

Whilst the contest recognises the highest level of talent internationally in the sector, the key messages of the challenge go beyond that. Red meat, like all other food and drinks products, operates in a global market, and whilst each country worries over their own sales figures, growth of the trade and demand for the product internationally will benefit all. Working together and sharing best practice can help achieve this.

With more and more people shopping with their eyes, rather than just their budgets, appearance is key to driving sales increases. Ensuring products are consistency well cut, and presented in innovative ways, is central to creating loyalty amongst shoppers. Sharing new product development (NPD) ideas and butchery skills helps to get these results, and the Tri-Nations acts an ideal platform to make this happen.

With the livestock in all three countries reared to some of the highest international standards, the way in which the carcases are cut and presented must do justice to those who spend their time nurturing and producing them. Good butchery will do just that, as well as ensuring maximum carcase

The beef and lamb sector, in almost all countries, faces scrutiny on a number of topics, from environmental issues, to meat and health claims and welfare matters. These common challenges shows there is real value in working together.

The event is also the perfect vehicle to show the younger generation that a career in the butchery trade is a viable choice. Whilst being a butcher may not be seen as the most glamorous career, the Tri-Nations highlights the technical skills, team work, creativity and precision required making it an interesting and specialist vocation.

The tournament is all about engagement with fellow butchers and consumers of all ages, and this is why social media has played a large part in the competition. The teams have created fun, short insights into their practices and processes for YouTube, bantered with each other on the Facebook page and shared selfie after selfie – each team member even had their own selfie stick!

Whilst Team GB didn’t achieve the ultimate result, this time, their skill and innovation showed they are some of Britain’s ultimate butchers! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Red meat marketing: A world of innovation

Beef and lamb, like other commodities, operates in a global marketplace. Whilst each country competes for sales, the trade needs to grow internationally to ensure that people across the world maintain the meat-eating habit. Collaborating with other countries to share best practice on producing consistent, high quality product is a key to making sure this happens.  

AHDB Beef & Lamb’s ‘World of Innovation’ conference centred on using best practice across the world to help market beef and lamb carcases more effectively to drive red meat sales.

The conference on September 10 at the Tower of London, was attended by representatives from across the retail, foodservice and independent sectors. They were all eager to improve their understandings of trends in the beef and lamb markets, learn how innovation in new product development (NPD) can boost sales, and hear from the keynote speakers from the Beef Innovation Group in the USA.

The event was kicked off by AHDB Beef & Lamb’s head of trade marketing, Mike Whittemore, who gave an insight into the brand pillars which form the trade marketing strategy. Campaigns range from thin cuts steaks, which repositions stewing and braising cuts as quick-cook and versatile, through to initiatives to help trade rediscover lamb and advances in reviving slow cooking. The overview illustrated the breadth of work the team undertake in maximising carcase utilisation and advances in research to meet the demands of the consumer.

Multiple retail trade sector manager, Matt Southam, then gave a beef and lamb market update. With a number of buyers and category managers in attendance, top of their list of questions was what motivates today’s shoppers to put beef and lamb into their baskets. Looking at how, when and who people are eating beef and lamb with, Matt showed that modern consumers looks for convenient quick-to-cook meals which can serve smaller households. With the average time spent making main meals down from 60 minutes in 1980 to 31 minutes in 2014, and 5.4 per cent more people eating alone than ever before, the need to provide an option that suits these changing consumer lifestyles is key for the red meat industry.

Matt revealed that more consumers are moving away from ‘home-made’ cooking. In fact, research suggested people will spend 234% more for meal solutions rather than individual ingredients. For the beef and lamb trade to meet this demand they need to provide recipe inspiration and innovation in packing options to give shoppers an easy-to-cook, yet tasty dish.

AHDB Beef & Lamb’s business development manager, Dick van Leeuwen, provided insight into NPD innovation. He outlined the need for foodservice and retail to offer NPD to keep traditional primals relevant for changing consumer lifestyles. However key to innovation in NPD is consistency. Product consistency is the only way to ensure that trade offers shoppers something good every time and inspires loyalty to the product. He gave brief examples how seam butchering various cuts, like
the rump cap into premium picanha steaks, could add over a £1m to the annual retail sales value of the muscles. However central to Dicks’ message was to get the butchery techniques and cutting specifications right to offer profit and returns.

Keynote speaker, Jim Ethridge the executive director of strategic account management at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), explored consumer trends from the US retail and foodservice markets, with particular focus on power of younger consumers - ‘the millennials’. He showed how food was central to the daily lives of younger consumers. Through social media, young people share food innovation and experiences - 19 per cent of 21 to 24-year-olds have borrowed someone else’s food to take a picture of it and post on social media! For Jim the key to marketing red meat, in particular beef, is to engage on social media to build loyalty and continue to educate young consumers to maintain their confidence in cooking beef in the kitchen.

Steve Wald, the second keynote speaker and executive director of innovation at the NCBA, examined how new technology had helped the US’s beef market change for the better. NPD in the states has been used to create a product that makes a beef dinner at home just as good as eating out. Though Steve’s team are working on a number of projects to help achieve this, the audience were fascinated by their advances in special microwave packaging. The packaging is a cook-in-the-bag concept which cooks whole joints quickly in the microwave, whilst locking in fresh flavour. The added benefit for people testing the product was the minimal amount of washing up to do after it was cooked. Though the initiative is still being developed, the innovative nature of the technology was something Steve encouraged the audience to learn from.

Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb, was then joined on stage by Inside Foodservice’s MD Simon Peat. The pair gave an insight into trends in foodservice that retailers and independent butchers can capitalise on. Outlining some of the key foodservice operators who are putting lamb and beef on their menus in new and innovative ways, Simon and Hugh showed how many restaurants are moving towards international cuisines but still placing focus on locally sourced products.
The final presentation of the day was delivered by AHDB Beef & Lamb’s marketing communications manager, Mo Fisher. She shared upcoming research the organisation is undertaking linking meat to health, helping to dispel common consumption myths which can be a barrier to sales. The presentation also outlined how the team are working towards increasing awareness of the important role that meat plays in the diet.

Conference chairman and sector director of AHDB Beef & Lamb, Nick Allen, summed the conference’s key message - that innovation is essential if we are to ensure beef and lamb remain part of peoples' busy modern lifestyles.  
To view all the presentations from the day click here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

How future technologies can revolutionise farming

Future technology and the opportunities it presents for farmers was the centrepiece of discussion at AHDB’s Smart Agriculture conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham.

As well as looking at some of the latest agricultural technology currently available, the Smart Ag event on Tuesday (September 8) was an opportunity for our industry to peek over the fence to see what others are doing. How some have embraced robotics was frankly staggering.

From robot bees that could pollinate flowers in the face of declining numbers of real bees, to fruit-penetrating lasers which could sense damaged fruit, there was some real food for thought as to how intelligent machinery could enhance agriculture.

Although beef and lamb production were not specifically covered, the idea of Smart Ag was to exhibit the scope of available technology so that it could be considered by the entire farming industry.

Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, was the keynote speaker. Professor Sukkarieh develops robotic devices and intelligent systems that can operate around the clock, throughout the year, outdoors. These devices can perceive and understand their environment, make informed decisions and carry out subsequent actions – all without direct human input.

Prof Salah Sukkarieh
Already he and his colleagues have designed a 100 tonne automated straddle carrier that moves shipping containers around docks in Australia 24/7. They are also working with a mining company to develop technology that will enable them to operate an entire mine remotely from the far side of the country.

Recently Prof Sukkarieh’s team turned its attention to agriculture. It worked with a farm in Australia to create a pilotless robotic aircraft that can detect and spray invasive weeds in remote locations. The team is also midway through developing autonomous devices that will perform many of the manual tasks involved in large scale pruning, thinning, harvesting, mowing spraying and weeding.

So, does the technology work effectively? Well, the farm is the size of Luxemburg and it’s operated by one man, so it’s fair to say yes.

Another speaker was Dr Jordan Boyle, a lecturer from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds. Dr Boyle talked about his passion for combining biology and robotics, and said that already progress was being made with life-based technology such as Spot the robotic dog, which can move around at speed in a number of environments and adapt to change.

Dr Jordan Boyle
Perhaps the most important part of Smart Ag was the networking session which encouraged the tech wizards and speakers to engage with the farming industry representatives, so that discussions about industry and on-farm problems could be shared with those who seek to solve all matter of complications with technology.

There was a simple but effective Post It Note wall which proved popular, where delegates could leave their contact details and find those of other attendees. It’s possible that the resulting conversations will sow digital seeds that could change the future of the industry.

The Post It Note wall
AHDB Chairman Peter Kendall summed it up in his welcome notes when he said that farming is on the ‘cusp of a revolution’ as the way in which we manage the environment and the way we produce food will become ever more reliant on precision technologies.

Peter Kendall opens SmartAg
If that is the case it’s important to ensure that we are well placed for it, and Smart Ag was the ideal starting point.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The ‘Scrum Downer’ – the ultimate Rugby World Cup beef snack

This week’s guest blogger Hugh Judd, AHDB Beef & Lamb’s foodservice project manager, knows all too well about the pressures staff are under when eateries screen high-profile sporting events. Here Hugh outlines how rugby fans can ‘scrum down’ with the ultimate world cup half-time snack.

International sporting competitions are no longer just the part of the day when dads have sole right to the remote control and arm chair. They are now full blown social occasions, with food and drink right at the heart of them.

Think of Wimbledon and you’ll soon mention strawberries and cream, American baseball on TV might have you reaching for a hot dog, while the Football World Cup in 2014 provided people across the country with the perfect excuse to host a Brazilian-inspired barbecue.

The Rugby World Cup will be no different. In 15 days pubs up and down the country will be turning on their large TV screens as the first match gets underway. Friends and families alike will make the journey to their local pubs and bars as they back their national side. However, for people working in foodservice, when that half-time whistle blows the real work begins.

Getting the right half-time snack is key to pleasing customers and staff alike. Chefs need something tasty that is easy to prepare but can still offer good profits. This is why we have created the Scrum Downer.

Developed as a perfect half-time snack, the Scrum Downer is a hot beef sandwich made from tender, succulent ‘Thin Cut’ beef steak.

The Thin Cut range has been developed by our New Product Development (NPD) team to maximise the use of the carcase, increase profitability throughout the supply chain and yield a more consistent end product. Produced from cuts which are traditionally only used for stewing or other slow-cook methods, thin cut beef steaks provide operators with a fantastic opportunity to profit.

The range’s great taste and easy cooking comes from its unique style - the steaks are cut no thicker than five millimetres and are fully denuded, with no fat or gristle. This also makes the range versatile enough to be used for a number of other dishes, from wraps, to fajitas and stir-fries.

For those wanting to make the perfect Scrum Downer then look no further than Tender Top steaks. I recommend serving the Tender Top in a buttered soft bun or crusty roll with a choice of mustard or horseradish. Requiring no specialist skill or equipment to prepare, the Scrum Downer is an easy to prepare and cost-effective option.

Though the Scrum Downer has been developed with the Rugby World Cup in mind, wider work into the thin cut category remains a priority for our trade marketing team. Detailed consumer research into the range showed that there was a real opportunity to create a distinct positioning for thin cut steaks that clearly differentiates them from traditional steak ranges - with shoppers summing up their thoughts towards them in three words: tasty, easy, quick. The Scrum Downer offers that distinct positioning, whilst making the product relevant to shoppers and trade alike. 

If you want to discuss the thin cuts range in more detail, or want some information on how you can use the Scrum Downer visit our trade marketing website