The apparently insatiable appetite of British shoppers for venison has turned deer farming into a multi-million pound sector, says one of Britain’s most successful producers: Holme Farmed Venison.
Over the past two years, director Nigel Sampson has seen week-on-week sales growth of at least 20%, rising to 75% at its peak last December.
And he has just cemented a supply deal with a third big multiple, selling now to Sainsbury’s as well as Waitrose and Asda.
“We’ve seen amazing growth for quite some time, and it is the same in the catering sector.
We have grown from supplying 20 Asda stores to 260 over two years,” said the North Yorks-based farmer.
And he reckons that growth is set to continue.
“Venison hasn’t been fully marketed on the benefit of its leanness.
We have just changed our own-brand labelling to reflect the fact that the meat is less than 1% fat.”
Margins have slimmed over the years, Mr Sampson admits, but lifting efficiency through a new 10,000sq ft processing plant and rocketing volumes have maintained profitability.
The business processes up to 5000 deer a year into a range of fresh cuts of meat, sausages and ready meals.
But the farm only finishes 400 deer at a time, so it has to buy most supplies through marketing group Venico.
And 50% is imported from New Zealand.
“We have a market-led opportunity to supply a demand-led product, but British farmers aren’t taking advantage of it,” he said.
Waitrose buyer Andy Boulton predicted further growth for the meat:
“People seem to have rediscovered such meats as venison and made them part of their regular diet again.”