Crazy rich Asians love Aussie meat's prestige - at just $350/kg

Asia's buying Aussie beef prestige - at just $350/kg


Agribusiness
Amelia Park lamb cutlets from Vasse, in southern Western Australia, selling in Singapore for $S9.20 /100 grams.

Amelia Park lamb cutlets from Vasse, in southern Western Australia, selling in Singapore for $S9.20 /100 grams.

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Buying quality, expensive food in Asia is a status statement.

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If the past five years of leaping lamb and beef prices have been hard for Australian shoppers to swallow, it's difficult to imagine how supermarket customers in Singapore feel paying $92 a kilogram for cutlets or $350/kg for steaks.

Yet the car park outside the Huber's butchery, grocery store and restaurant in Singapore's up market Dempsey Hill district is constantly busy with shoppers willingly paying big, big money for Australian steaks, asparagus, eggs, wine and anything else they can find for dinner.

Buying quality, expensive food in Singapore is something of a status statement, and it is a trend increasingly seen across emerging Asia.

So, too, is extravagant restaurant dining, where $150 Wagyu beef cuts or servings of Australian fruit, cheese and wine are probably on the menu.

Quite a lot of people spend a lot of money on food to show they have money to spend - Ellen Rodgers, Meat and Livestock Australia

For Australian farmers still unconvinced about nearby Asia's ballooning export market power, a visit to Huber's, or numerous other well patronised fresh food retailers selling pricey imports, is an eye-watering reality check.

Meat and Livestock Australia's Ellen Rodgers with Australian farmers visiting Singapore with an ANZ Banking Group agribusiness delegation, James Male, "Ellamville", Yerong Creek, NSW and Adrian Tiller, Sherwood, Queensland, checking out a $170 a kilogram cut of Australian Wagyu-cross beef in the Honest Bee supermarket.

Meat and Livestock Australia's Ellen Rodgers with Australian farmers visiting Singapore with an ANZ Banking Group agribusiness delegation, James Male, "Ellamville", Yerong Creek, NSW and Adrian Tiller, Sherwood, Queensland, checking out a $170 a kilogram cut of Australian Wagyu-cross beef in the Honest Bee supermarket.

Huber's sells meat imported from across the globe, prominently promoting Australian brands including Queensland's Stockyard and John Dee; West Australia's Motainai lamb, Greenham's Pure Black from Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia; Midfield from Warrnambool, Vic, and Thomas Foods' lines from SA and NSW.

Singaporean consumers are not just willing to pay a premium price for good quality food if they can identify its production and provenance claims, they like to be noticed buying premium quality, too.

New Asia's spending habit

"Asia has changed a lot in the past 15 years or so - quite a lot of people spend a lot of money on food to show they have money to spend," said Meat and Livestock Australia's South East Asian international business manager, Ellen Rodgers.

"If you're earning more than $US50,000 a year ($70,000) you want to show friends, family and business associates you're eating quality, and you shop in places which reflect a successful life.

"At restaurants people spend so much time taking photos of their food you wonder if they're ever going to eat it.

"In fact, it's not unusual to see people ordering quality wine and not even drinking it - it's all about showing they have the money and confidence to buy expensive brands."

Ms Rodgers noted consumer trends set in wealthy Singapore invariably flowed to other parts of Asia, including less affluent countries.

Pricey Australian and US beef cuts in Singapore's Honest Bee supermarket.

Pricey Australian and US beef cuts in Singapore's Honest Bee supermarket.

The "premiumisation" of Asian buying habits and meal choices was not limited to pricey 300-day grain-fed Australian or Japanese beef, or $70-a-bottle Hunter Valley reds.

Fake beef buzz

Singapore's big food hit this year has been the Silicon Valley-developed Impossible Burger, made from plant-based ingredients including wheat, coconut oil and soybean leghemoglobin, which gives it a meat substitute flavour and "bleeding" characteristics, just like a real burger.

Since launching in February, casual and fine dining restaurants have added Impossible Foods' vegan mince to signature dishes.

Impossible Burgers sell for $18 to $28-plus at eateries like celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay's, Bread Street Kitchen.

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Not only does Singapore enjoy the world's third highest per-capita gross domestic product, it is a business and short holiday mecca for visitors also spending big money on food.

Premium-priced meat cuts from around the world at Huber's Butchery in Singapore.

Premium-priced meat cuts from around the world at Huber's Butchery in Singapore.

Every year about 18.5 million tourists and business travellers typically arrive for about four days, while the huge Changi airport and airline catering business, SATS, service another 60m visitors transitioning to other destinations via Singapore.

"All these people have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner," said food and beverage manager with the grand 2100-room Fairmont Hotel, Emmanuel Benardos.

Emmanuel Benardos

Emmanuel Benardos

"The planes they fly on and the mini bars in their hotel rooms are stocked with juices, milk, wine, and beer, plus snacks - a growth market for nut, fruit and pulse grain producers."

Singapore imports more than $9 billion in food products annually.

Part of France's Accor hotel group, The Fairmont, generates almost $300 million in annual revenue.

Food business boom

About $100m of that turnover was food and beverage sales - reputedly more than Accor's entire hotel network in Australia.

With 32 kitchens and 15 restaurants, Fairmont Singapore may be feeding 1700 diners at any one time, plus another 1900 guests in its monster ballroom.

The hotel recently turned away one potential high quality Australian beef supplier because his supply chain could not commit to meeting volumes required for just one of its superfine restaurants.

Australian cauliflowers selling for the equivalent of $24.20.

Australian cauliflowers selling for the equivalent of $24.20.

"In a typical day we could serve 25,000 to 30,000 people in this pub," said Mr Benardos, whose seven years in Singapore have included running two of the world's top 100 Michelin star rated restaurants.

"The number of steaks I order every week is insane.

"I'm not in Europe. I'm in Asia. This is where it's happening.

"When I started out in Australia it was unimaginable that you might end up working in Asia at one of the world's best restaurants where a reservation waiting list is three months' long."

For those not eating at sky high restaurants overlooking the harbour city, there's always the Honest Bee supermarket option, where young Singaporeans, in particular, can shop, eat and socialise in style.

Originally an online grocery website, Honest Bee created the real shopping experience to support its brand.

A dining area inside the Honest Bee supermarket.

A dining area inside the Honest Bee supermarket.

It developed a modern hawker-style marketplace where shoppers enjoy a steak, milkshake or cappuccino while their grocery orders are packed.

Australian brands and fresh meat cuts are prominent, and expensive.

Heavily marbled "chocolate-fed" rib-eye Wagyu from south eastern SA's Mayura Station, near Millicent, sells for $37 for 100 grams and Wagyu cross for $17.70/100 grams.

Honest Bee sells a wide range of respected Australian food and beverage products.

Honest Bee sells a wide range of respected Australian food and beverage products.

Tasmania's Cape Grim 21-day dry aged ribeye is about $250/kg, US prime ribs are a bargain at 124/kg, and 35-day grain-fed lamb from Bunbury, WA, about $90/kg.

All sales are made via a mobile phone app.

"I think this is where the future of fresh food shopping is going," said MLA's Ms Rodgers.

  • Andrew Marshall travelled to Singapore as a guest of ANZ Banking Group

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The story Crazy rich Asians love Aussie meat's prestige - at just $350/kg first appeared on Farm Online.

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