True Tasmanian quality
For 17 years, Tasmanian Quality Meats has specialised in providing its clientele with exceptional quality small stock meats; including lamb, veal, mutton and offal. In 1997, Brian Oliver, a veteran of the meat processing industry, approached his old school friend John Talbot to purchase the meatworks, and the two became joint owners of the business – though Brian was sole Managing Director until 2002.
“Back in 1998, we had three employees, we turned over $250,000, and I think we lost between $30,000 and $40,000, so we started from very humble beginnings,” says John Talbot. “We were servicing local butchers in Tasmania, boning rooms in Victoria and a company in Queensland.”
“But in 2010, we heard there was an innovation grant being put up by the government. We engaged a professional to put in an application on Tasmanian Quality Meat’s behalf, to help build a new export processing facility. We got the grant, and that’s when our big start happened.”
Today – in addition to distributing a smaller amount of stock meats on a national level – Tasmanian Quality Meats exports to Amman in Jordan, Dubai in the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. They face strong competition overseas, but through the strength of their brand, the company manages to establish and maintain lasting relationships with its customers.
“We’re fairly special because we’re Tasmanian,” John says, describing what sets their brand apart. “Because we’re surrounded by water, we don’t get the diseases they get on the mainland, and the state government mandates no hormone growth promotants can be fed to our animals. It’s mainly grass feed that we use, and they’ve got a very good environment to grow in. We’ve got a clean, green image.”
The grade of Tasmanian Quality Meats’ produce isn’t the only factory that contributes to the close ties they share with clients. According to John, the company makes it their mission to go out and speak to their customers face-to-face, several times a year. Even if they are stationed in Amman or Dubai, customers’ freight or quality assurance concerns can be resolved in person.
“We are the old type of business-people,” John says. “We like to meet our customers, and discuss their needs face-to face. If they are happy customers, we are a happy provider. Personal contact is a very important thing to us.”
The length of some of Tasmanian Quality Meats’ relationships can attest to this. The company has been selling product to a facility in Victoria for over 10 years, for example, and have been working with many more clients for almost as long. As for exporting, many of the company’s clients have been with them since they received their license in 2011.
Of course, John says that having a good corporate culture is also important when it comes to delivering a strong product, and forming strong ties with business partners. Tasmanian Quality Meats’ team includes about 80 employees, and John says they all contribute to the company’s success.
“We have a really good staff retention rate,” he says. “We promote people within our workforce rather than get people from outside. When new QA positions were required, we sent our own people away to be trained in those jobs. We try to provide a work place where people can – if they’re driven – climb up the ladder.”
“Because we’ve got a strong staff we can rely on, we can keep up with product expectations very well,” he continues. “Everyone here is very well-skilled, and it just makes the whole process in this facility run a lot smoother.”
Tasmanian Quality Meats also enjoys exceptionally strong relationship with their suppliers. According to John, they are free and encouraged to observe any part of their stock’s processing, from pens to chillers.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with the local Tasmanian producers,” John says. “They have been very supportive of us in our growth period – we’ve bought lambs off several of them repeatedly, season after season. Because we allow them to come and watch our processing facility, they know ‘These two guys from northern Tasmania are really having a go.’ In fact, the reason Brian started us on this business plan was because the lighter lamb job just wasn’t being done by a Tasmanian processor.”
A service to Tasmania
At the 2013 Tasmanian Export Awards, Tasmanian Quality Meats’ dedication to its export clients and the quality of its product was recognised with both the Regional Exporter of the Year award and Exporter of the Year.
“To be able to achieve that recognition has been a hell of a boost to us,” John says. “It’s great recognition for the hard work we’ve put into it, and for our employees. It’s not something we set out to win, there were a lot of very good exporters of other products in the state of Tasmania, but it’s a lovely achievement to have. It’s also nice to have it on the end of all our electronic documentation.”
“Of course, the vision of my co-Director has driven the decisions we’ve made in the last three to four years,” he continues. “This entire project was his brainchild. It was his idea to go down the route of being a specialised, small stock processor. The awards are also recognition of that vision.”
John also credits the company’s award success to the extraordinary growth they have achieved since they started exporting. In turn, he credits that growth to their focus on creating positive relationships that benefit all parties – and not just with their clients and employees, but with their suppliers as well.
“We’ve helped give a good sustainable income to the producers of the meat we’re exporting,” he says.
“We’re a nice, honest, small company,” he adds. “We’re not top-heavy – Brian and myself keep control of what’s going on throughout our business. We’re not paying a lot of overheads for big management people, it’s more a family-operated business.”
Moving forward, Tasmanian Quality Meats aims to grow. At the rate they’re going, they are certainly on the right track. Prior to building their export processing facility, the company turned over $8 to 9 million. In their first year of exporting, they turned over $15.5 million, and last year they turned over $22.5 million.
“We want to make sure we add as much value onto our product as possible,” John says. “Up until August this year we didn’t have a freezing facility on-site, we’ve only just finished building one, and a cutting facility. I think that will help increase our sales even more. This year we’d like to grow by $5 to 8 million.”
“We’ve had a massive learning curve, but we’ve had a massive increase in our turnover,” he concludes. “Prior to exporting we had 24 employees, this week we’ve got around 80. It’s been a massive expansion all round. Now we’re excited to see what the future holds.”
For more information, please visit their website at: Tasmanian Quality Meats
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