SPENDING your days spruiking the wonders of Australian beef and lamb to a nation of meat lovers doesn’t seem like a terribly strenuous work life but there is far more to developing markets than meets the eye.
Former Sydneyite Catherine Golding, who has spent the last four-and-a-half years in Washington, DC, as Meat and Livestock Australia’s business development manager for North America, is a walking encyclopedia on trends, an endless source of creative concepts, an expert in reading people and how they are likely to be influenced and one of the few people in this world who truly understands the inner workings of juggernauts like Facebook and Instagram.
However, as fascinating - and rare - as that collection of skills is, Catherine believes her strengths as a market developer for Australian red meat lay in her career foundations in producer communications.
She was editor of MLA’s popular Feedback magazine for a number of years and also managed research and development communications for the company.
“These roles gave me a strong and proud connection with producers and researchers,” she said.
“This knowledge of the industry has stood me in good stead to communicate the unique production and product attributes of Australian beef and lamb to United States customers.”
Catherine says the complexity, the regionality and the enormity of the market keeps her on her toes.
Her job is very much about staying on top of how trends evolve and shift so she can ensure campaigns and education materials are relevant and engaging.
“For example, where millennials were all the buzz last year, this year everyone is talking about GenZ so I am keeping my ears open to understand how it may impact what we do now and what we might need to do down the track,” she said.
The biggest challenge is that as a small player in the US protein industry, Australian beef and lamb has to be extremely innovative to be seen and heard, especially against the backdrop of the ‘Make America Great Again’ climate, according to Catherine.
“Grass-fed beef and lamb makes up about three to five percent of the retail meat case here,” she said.
MLA’s holiday season campaign, #Own Your Party, shows just how cutting-edge market development has become for red meat.
Far from being just an advert or two here and there, it’s Facebook Live events, party e-cookbooks, social media activity geared around making your party even more special by cooking with Aussie beef and lamb, creating platforms on the likes of Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram, and working hand-in-glove with a stable of influencers.
These ‘influencers’, Catherine explains, have an amazing fan base which adds up to over a million people.
This campaign has also involved organising grassroots ‘parties’ in key markets – restaurant pop-ups, influencer parties and field day stage demonstrations.
Outside of campaigns like these, Catherine is kept busy running chef education events, promotional presentations for national foodservice brands and “hitting the books and researching the market.”
“We use this research every day to guide how we communicate and market True Aussie on every level. We check out what’s happening on US menus, what consumers think about Aussie product and what the key drivers or barriers to purchase are, to name a few.”
The desire for sustainably and ethically-produced protein that also tastes great are highly important drivers of perceptions and purchase intentions in the US at the moment, she says.
“So my knowledge of the underpinning research alongside real producer stories provides endless material for me to distil into creative and targeted messaging that is truly resonating with North American consumers,” she said.
What does she like about where she now lives?
“The easy access to explore so many amazing places,” Catherine said.
“Travelling from state to state in the US is like travelling to different countries. The food, the culture, the architecture, the landscapes, the people and their attitudes changes significantly and in wonderful ways as you go across the country.
“I also love the food and while Americans are known for their burgers and hotdogs, it goes so far beyond that. Some of the more creative and fun things range from chicken wings with the wing attached to cotton candy burritos - yep, these are actual dishes on menus.”
What she misses most about home, alongside her mum of course, is the humble meat pie.
“Pies in the US mean either the fruit variety or pizza. It’s just not the same,” she said.