Australian lamb is in demand across India

February 2014

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Already a major exporter of Australian sheep and lamb products to more than 100 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, United States and Asia, Fletcher International Exports was lured to India because of the growing market opportunities.

India’s key food distribution channels are expanding. According to Technopak, ‘Emerging Trends in Indian Retail and Consumer 2013 report, the food and grocery market represented US$338.1 billion or 69 per cent of the total retail market valued at US$490 billion. Organised retail accounted for 8 per cent or US$37 billion of Indian retail.

Fletcher International Exports, founded and led by Roger Fletcher, has grown from humble beginnings in the mid-1970s to become the largest sheep meat processor in Australia and exporter of sheep and lamb products.

Today, the company operates two abattoirs in Dubbo, New South Wales and Narrikup, near Albany, in Western Australia.

Both facilities are fully integrated, processing all parts of the animal but the wool from both abattoirs is only processed at Dubbo.

Niklas Moore, Fletcher International Exports Indian Marketing Representative, said both abattoirs process (slaughtering and boning) 9,000 sheep and lamb a day and 90,000 a week between the two plants.

‘Having two plants provides increased capabilities to meet customer orders. Each site has advantages in transit times to specific markets, allowing deliveries to be shipped from either the east or west coast of Australia to achieve the best outcome,’ said Moore.

‘Japan was the first market in Asia Fletcher International Exports entered. This was followed by Korea, Taiwan, China and then other smaller Asian markets. However, Roger identified opportunities in India and was very keen to get his products into the market.’

Entering India

Fletcher International Exports was the first Australian company to enter the Indian market, after the Indian Government allowed lamb imports.

‘With the assistance of Austrade and DAFF (Department of Agriculture), we entered in October 2012 after showcasing our products at Fine Food India.

‘Austrade was really proactive in helping us. They provided advice, introduced us to customers, provided details of reputable distributors to meet and helped us promote our Australian products in the market. Austrade also helped us launch our products into Auchan supermarkets in August last year,’ said Moore.

Fletcher’s lamb range has also been paired and promoted with various Australian wine labels already in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai as part of a series tailored Australian food and beverage events organised by Austrade.

Since assuming the responsibility for the Indian market, from founder Roger Fletcher and Graham Lyon who together initiated Fletcher’s entry, Moore’s aim has been to enhance the brand across India.

Fletcher International Exports’ premium lamb products are found in many of India’s growing hotel and restaurant sectors, particularly the four and five-star hotels – where its premium lamb rack is the most popular product.

It also has a strong presence across Delhi and Mumbai where the Fletcher products are distributed to various retailers through several suppliers in each city.

‘Like China, India has a large population and a growing middle-class that is interested in fine dining, especially lamb. This can be seen through the many new high quality hotels and restaurants being built.

‘Despite being a largely vegetarian population, there is a lot of interest in lamb which is another main protein source used in a lot of curries and dishes. This was another factor which attracted us to India,’ said Moore.

Preference for Australian lamb

Moore said what gives his company the competitive edge, is Fletcher International Exports’ reputation for supplying the highest quality lamb and sheep meat products around the world; obtained over many years of servicing retail and supermarkets worldwide.

This is complemented by the company’s ability to provide the same consistent quality to hotels, retail and high-end catering markets in India.

‘Not only do we have the abattoirs which use the latest technology and operate under strict quality controls, Roger also owns the farms where he breeds the highest quality lamb.’

Moore adds the final products are rechecked by the quality assurance teams before leaving the abattoir to ensure the highest standards are met.

‘We have also found chiefs within the hotel sector who recognise the texture and taste of our lamb as a quality product, as it is well suited to a wide range of cooking preparations and styles,’ Moore said.

Other reasons Moore cites are: Australia’s globally recognised breeding conditions, advanced farm management; stringent animal welfare protocols and the highest food safety standards in the world – which ensure food is produced under the strict food safety regulations of the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture.

Doing business in India

Moore stressed the importance of understanding the market before entering.

‘It is critical to do your homework and research. You need to understand what it takes to enter the market and what the requirements of the government and your customers are,’ said Moore.

‘India is not a market to go to and expect to succeed immediately. It requires a detailed strategy, meeting laws around labelling, certification and distribution too, especially in our industry.

‘I would definitely suggest contacting Austrade to understand how they can help but, not only before entering the market but also once there too.’

The plan going forward, according to Moore, is to get Fletcher’s products into various areas across India once they ‘understand the market even more’.

With Fletcher International Exports also being Halal certified, expansion into nearby countries Pakistan and Nepal is also possible.

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