The study, conducted between May 2017 and June 2018, investigated the market demand and potential supply chains for Noongar branded food products. Based on the key study findings, it is evident that there exists a viable business opportunity for Noongar branded sheepmeat and native food products, particularly in the premium food service market channel.
For more information read the executive summary (sidebar at right).
The study was guided by a Supply Chain Working Group that consisted of enterprises with shared cultural and sustainability values and who wish to cooperate for the production of Noongar branded, value-added sheepmeat and native food products. Key stakeholders included the Noongar Land Enterprise Group.
The identified project values were:
- connection and commitment to country, particularly for the Aboriginal people of Noongar Boodja
- land stewardship and rehabilitation (especially for salt-affected non-cropping land in southern WA)
- animal welfare and ethical production
- producing a high quality product for premium market consumption.
Provenance and branding story
To encapsulate the values outlined above, a preliminary branding statement was developed to summarise the potential provenance story for the proposed Noongar-branded sheepmeat and native food products. This branding statement was heavily critiqued and revised, with input from DPIRD, Working Group members and a professional communications writer. During this critique process, the brand name ‘Kookenjeri’ – being the Noongar word for sheep – was proposed and adopted.
The primary purpose of the branding statement was to provide a succinct and compelling provenance story that could be used for market testing; and ultimately could be taken to market by a Noongar-led business.
Current situation analysis
A market survey was conducted of target market retail operators (i.e. premium food service / restaurant operators, specialist retailers, and other industry influencers and stakeholders) to identify what Australian Indigenous food products are currently in demand and why, as well as quantifying the potential market size.
Market analysis was conducted to identify:
- evidence of demand for native and indigenous branded foods
- key demand drivers
- the role of the supply chain provenance story and how best to communicate the story
- factors influencing customers' purchasing decisions
- the potential market size for identified products
- the value that might be associated with indigenous branded food products.
There was also a supply chain simulation study, and a desktop analysis and discussion with other successful Indigenous and/or native food branded businesses and articulation of their success strategies.
Key findings and success factors
The key findings of this study were summarised into the nine success factors outlined below:
- There is growing demand for native foods, particularly in premium food service. The common use of native foods in ‘modern Australian cuisine’ bodes well for an offer that includes both sheepmeat (particularly lamb) and native foods. However, further work is needed to educate chefs and consumers on dry-aged sheepmeat for it to consistently command a premium.
- Security, consistency and quality of product supply is a vital success factor and key to determining business success or failure, especially for a new product (such as dry-aged sheepmeat, or native foods). The business must be able to meet demand (including peaks) and give confidence to the customers.
- A well-communicated provenance story is a key success factor. It must be authentic, concise and factual; yet be sufficiently flexible to allow the chef and/or retail outlet to mould the story around their own branding. Direct marketing of the product and provenance story to chefs has been successful for other premium and/or niche products. A sophisticated, professional internet and social media presence has also been effective for several businesses.
- Indigenous branding on its own will not guarantee success, nor command a premium. Other Indigenous branded products in mainstream retail are typically positioned as “mid-range”. Other provenance attributes, especially environmental stewardship, are stronger. Other businesses have similarly found that a well-communicated and consistent bundle of provenance attributes is a key success factor – e.g. cultural heritage + environmental stewardship + health benefits + gourmet product quality.
- The Kookenjeri offering is best suited to the premium fine/experiential dining market channel. There is likely to be less scope for Kookenjeri in specialty meat retail, as there is often less opportunity for communication of brand and provenance stories, and premium products are more likely to be commoditised. Assuming a long-term market share of between 10% and 30% in the fine/experiential restaurant market, Kookenjeri could generate annual revenues in the order of $1.7 – $5.0 million. This would require an annual turnoff of 1900 – 5700 sheep, and 9100 – 27 300 lambs.
- The six properties currently affiliated with the Noongar Land Enterprise (NLE) Group could, at estimated full carrying capacity, meet approximately 5% of the market demand in the premium fine/experiential restaurant market channel. To realise the full potential of the market opportunity, there is a need for collaboration with existing non-Noongar producers, whom are aligned with the project values.
- There are several potential value-add supply chain models, all involving the establishment of a joint marketing company to coordinate production, manage commercial arrangements and distribute returns to producers. Depending on the preferred model, this company could also become involved in processing, branding, marketing and wholesaling activities. In general, the more the company becomes involved in these supply chain activities the greater the risk, complexity and share of value that can be captured. In order to justify the increased risk and costs, Kookenjeri products would need to achieve price premiums of between 3 – 22%.
- The key supply chain risks for a Noongar-branded sheepmeat product are: 1) coordination of production and turn-off; 2) finding available processing and chilling space; 3) shifting product while maintaining premiums; and 4) regulatory risks (especially for mobile abattoirs).
- Stakeholder engagement and governance for the production business is important, especially when the business is built around cultural values and economic empowerment. The New Zealand Maori model is interesting and may be relevant to an Aboriginal owned agribusiness in Australia – i.e. a commercial board focusing on making a return on investment, and then a social board, whose role is to decide what to do with the profits.
The report recommended 19 tasks for the stakeholders to undertake in the short, medium and long-term through an implementation pathway developed around the particular Kookenjeri offering conceptualised in this study.
To learn more about NLE Group members Rhys and Maude Bonshore and Dowrene Farm, view the video.