Coastal Spring Lamb
Five inter-generational farming families in the lower North Island are working together to produce Coastal Spring Lamb, a seasonal branded spring lamb.
Five inter-generational farming families in the lower North Island are working together to produce Coastal Spring Lamb, a seasonal branded spring lamb, that is selling into selected New World supermarkets, butcher shops and restaurants. Founder Richard Redmayne, has a background in commerce, with a commerce degree from Otago and he worked in London in the areas of taxation and accounting before coming home to farm.
Richard Redmayne is the fourth generation of his family to be farming the Turakina property of Tunnel Hill, on the Manawatu coast. “We have always lambed early, with the aim of securing a premium for supplying chilled lamb into Europe prior to Christmas. At some stage I wondered why we were supplying Europeans when we could be supplying Kiwis. Then I had discussions with a Foodstuffs executive, and we started from there in 2010.”
“We wanted to promote our lamb with a real point of difference, that it is genuine spring lamb, born in June and July.”
“We put together a supply chain with lamb from just our farm in the first season. The second season went well and we approached it on a bigger scale by finding other like-minded farmers to join the brand. We wanted people with families who had been farming for a long time and were committed to agriculture, who had strong values around how they looked after and produced their lambs, and whose values we respected.”
“Now we’re just starting our fifth season of Coastal Spring Lamb. The lamb is only available in store from mid October to 31 January, so all the lamb we sell is around four months old. It’s the first spring lamb of the season. It’s young, and the meat is succulent and tender because it has grown so quickly. And it is guaranteed to born on one of our five farms.”
Coastal Spring Lamb is tender, aged and ready-to-go. Oversight is maintained through the entire supply chain, from paddock to plate. “We know where it has come from, what it has been eating and how it has been treated. This includes a strict protocol of no growth hormones, no promotants and no antibiotics.”
“Our lambs are hand selected to give our customers an exceptional eating experience. Our goal is to position the brand in the same seasonal food category as Bluff oysters, whitebait, Jersey Benne potatoes and asparagus: a seasonal offering which is anticipated and has provenance.”
From being raised by the local group of five farmers, the lambs are transported by local carriers to the local processing plant, Land Meat at Wanganui. They are distributed to supermarkets by Land Meat and to fine dining restaurants by two food service companies, Chefs Choice and Neat Meat. New World supermarkets are taking the lion’s share of the lamb with restaurants taking around 3% volume.
The fine-dining restaurants include The Grill and Ostro in Auckland and Logan Brown and Boulcott Street Bistro in Wellington.
“During the time our lamb is in-store we carry out lots of tastings. Suze [Richard’s wife] and I find this is a great way to meet customers and get their feedback and ideas. We try and make the link between the farmer, the chefs, retailers and the fine-dining restaurants. For example in Wellington, if you have Coastal Spring Lamb in a restaurant, then you know you can purchase it at the local New World.”
“It is hugely rewarding marketing something you are producing as a farmer directly to the end customer. It’s rewarding working with like-minded business people and the other farming families.”
“It’s exciting to be able to have control over the brand, and we can respond and change immediately when we need to. And it’s quite exciting to have our brand aligned with New World’s.”
“We try and promote the basic elements of our brand to the customer at the point of sale. Labeling on our products connects customers to our website where they can meet our families, see our farms and go in depth to look at what we do.”
Coastal Spring Lamb is also available on-line, a move prompted so family and friends could access the brand if a nearby New World supermarket didn’t yet stock it.
It’s also available in Hong Kong through a web-based retail business, which mainly sells to ex-pats.
Tim O’Neill is the co-ordinator of Coastal Spring Lamb supply from Maewa Station. Tim’s family has a long history on the farm. His great-grandfather arrived there in 1908. Now Maewa is run as a family farming partnership between Tim’s father and his two brothers. Several cousins are also involved in the farm business.
“Here at Maewa we have a total of 5,040ha in five different properties. The station itself is 3,100ha. We run 18,000 ewes, winter 2,000 cattle and grow 350ha of maize. We also run a flock of Romney ewes. For Coastal Spring Lamb, we cross the Romneys to Kelso Ranger and Poll Dorset rams, both of which are quick-growing specialist meat breeds.”
“We haven’t had to make policy changes to supply Coastal Spring Lamb, but we are far more accurate, for example when we weigh, and we are particular about the quality of the lambs. We put a lot more pressure on ourselves to ensure we meet the standards for Coastal Spring Lamb and everything is top notch. We brought our lambing date forward by a week to 10 days to ensure our lambs are ready by the start of October.”
“On average we supply 300 lambs a week through the season for Coastal Spring Lamb, with about 5,000 lambs in total.”
“We’ve always had a structured cropping and regrassing policy, with our grasses replaced after seven years. We grow a lot of chicory, plantain and clover crops for the lambs, because they are high octane forages and ensure the growth rates of the lambs are high.”
“Being a farmer supplier of Coastal Spring Lamb means we know what we are putting on the shelf is the best you can get at this time of the year. Previously all our good lamb went overseas, so to be able to sell our lamb in NZ is just brilliant. To know that your own family and anyone can buy your own lamb is great. I’ve tasted our lamb at Nero, Scott Kennedy’s Palmerston North restaurant when we launched the lamb for the 2013 season. It was a brilliant menu and we liked it so much we went back two weeks later. It’s unique to go to a restaurant and order something that has come from your place.”
“We’re privileged that Richard sees us as capable of fulfilling what he wants to be doing with Coastal Spring Lamb. We feel pretty proud to see our product in a shop or restaurant.” And Tim enjoys the feedback from customers. “People ring up and comment on the lamb. It’s rewarding and pleasing – but my mates give me a bit of stick. The other rewarding thing is that all the big name chefs are using our product.”
Pat O’Neill is Tim’s father and one of the partners on Maewa Station. He says it is a privilege to have been asked to come on board with Coastal Spring Lamb. “That we are enabling New Zealanders to enjoy the very best lamb is pretty special to me.”
“Historically all our new season lambs have been sent to the UK and Europe. The lambs New Zealanders have eaten in October, November and December have been old season lambs and people have no idea where their lamb has come from.”
“We joined Coastal Spring Lamb four years ago. It is a wonderful concept. Our lamb is the very first of the season; that’s the point of difference.”
“Recently my youngest daughter Nicky married a mid Canterbury farmer Simon. We had Coastal Spring Lamb on the menu, and it went down an absolute treat. It was a farming wedding and our entree was lamb loin with caramelized onion tart with avocado, roast red pepper, herb sour cream and micro greens. Some of our South Island guests said it was the nicest lamb they had ever tasted. I have eaten some of our lamb in restaurants. It is just sensational. And the fact that the lamb is now being sold in South Island supermarkets is pretty special.”
Foodstuffs have now appointed Coastal Spring Lamb as their exclusive supplier of branded spring lamb nationally.
For further information, go to Coastal Spring Lamb’s website at: http://www.coastalspringlamb.co.nz/