THERE was a strong theme running through the successful branded beef entries from JBS Australia in Friday’s Royal Queensland Show branded beef competition.
JBS claimed its first grand championship in any major Australian branded beef contest on Friday when its grassfed MSA class-winning entry, representing the company’s Swift Premium brand program, was judged grand champion branded beef of show.
It was the second year in succession that a grassfed entry has won the competition’s ultimate award, defeating longfed Wagyu and grainfed entries along the way. Some saw this as symbolic of the rise in awareness and interest among some consumers for beef products with different flavour, health profile and provenance attributes.
In addition to the overall championship ribbon for Swift Premium, JBS also collected a silver medal (second place) in the heavily contested grainfed MSA class (Beef City Platinum) and a bronze in the open class, for their 70 YG,GF brand, Royal.
The significance in this medal trifecta? All three entries were from brand programs with a strong domestic focus.
The result clearly flags the deliberate emphasis that JBS has been placing on developing a strong brand offering for its domestic market wholesale footprint over the past two years.
In accepting the awards, JBS acknowledged that the success of its programs was heavily reliant on strong working relationships with its livestock suppliers throughout Australia.
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A JBS spokesperson said the company had invested heavily in strategically positioning its processing plants down the eastern seaboard of Australia to gain access to the bulk of the country’s high quality cattle for their branding programs, both domestically and internationally.
“We’ve very deliberately gone out to develop a suite of branded products targeted very much at the Australian domestic market,” JBS domestic sales manager Denis Conroy told Beef Central.
Traditionally, JBS had been an export-focussed business, with the lion’s share of product going to traditional overseas markets. In more recent times, however, the business has shifted towards a balanced sales and marketing plan to minimise risk, maximise returns for the industry and extract value from comprehensive branded programs. This includes placing a stronger emphasis on the domestic market.
“JBS produces a lot of product throughout Eastern Australia, and a wide range of it is well suited to the local food service and retail market. We put a plan in place to develop brands and aim to build our exposure a little more at home,” Mr Conroy said.
As well as avoiding currency fluctuation issues, there are other attractions in the domestic market that make it very appealing to a global exporter like JBS. Just some of those include:
- avoiding market access and onerous regulatory issues seen in some overseas markets
- a high level of average beef consumption among Australian consumers
- a willingness to pay good money for a well-performed product, and
- a relatively simple distribution channel.
“There’s a lot of reasons for us to work hard to secure a larger slice of the domestic beef trade, not the least of it being it’s a high-paying market, with high average disposable income,” Mr Conroy said.
“It also means we can get the product out into regional areas, so our livestock suppliers and our own 8000-strong regional workforce can actually enjoy the product that they provide livestock for themselves, if they wish to.”
Part of the suite of brands now developed by JBS is focussed at recognition of the global trend towards products carrying natural, grassfed and sustainable product claims.
Beef Central understands JBS is one of the suppliers of grassfed beef to the new Chipotle Mexican Grill contract in the US (click here to view Beef Central’s earlier item on this development), and three large US retail supermarket contracts, using its Spring Crossing and Great Southern grassfed beef and lamb brands.
A number of recent initiatives, such as the JBS Farm Assurance program, were developed to cater for markets and key customers who demand an independently verified clean, natural and healthy free range style of product.
What’s behind JBS’s Swift Premium?
Swift Premium is a grassfed, MSA-backed, milk and up to four-tooth (YP) yearling program produced out of the company’s Dinmore and Rockhampton facilities, using cattle sourced out of northern NSW and southern Queensland. It does not carry a breed or content spec, but most cattle tend towards British and Euro breeds and their crosses to make the grade.
The brand is based on MSA boning groups 1-9, with applications in both retail and hotel/restaurant food service.
Swift Premium also won a medal last year in Brisbane and another in Melbourne’s equivalent 2013 branded beef competition.
Conscious of not ‘commoditising’ the brand through oversupply, JBS currently limits throughput for Swift Premium to around 500 bodies each week.
“The growth has been steady, because we want it that way. We don’t want it to become an over-supplied commodity-type product in the market,” Mr Conroy said.
Distribution is through the DR Johnston wholesale network across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Perth, Adelaide and Launceston markets.
The Beef City Platinum branded product which earned a silver medal in the grainfed MSA class is a minimum 100-day product generated out of the Beef City feedlot and abattoir, minimum marbling score 1. Platinum was launched last year, again with a specific focus on the domestic market, representing throughput of about 400 head per week. Because of its heavier carcase weight and consequent larger cut size, it has established a strong presence on domestic food service markets.
Beef City Platinum was launched to complement JBS’s Beef City Black, predominantly aimed at export, which is a similar spec, but without the the MSA requirement.
JBS also earned a bronze medal in the open class for Royal, a 70-day grainfed yearling program, also targeted at the domestic food service market. Royal is widely recognised as Australia’s oldest domestic brand, having been in production for over 25 years.
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