Sales of New Zealand venison to European markets for consumption outside the traditional game season are being held back by low production.
Exports of venison to northern Europe for the 2018 game season are expected to be worth about $70 million, about 35 percent of total venison exports.
During September, Deer Industry New Zealand New Zealand (DINZ) embarked on a major marketing tour, promoting the meat in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.
While there was a good response from chefs, a more challenging ambition is to build European demand for New Zealand venison outside the game season.
Making this happen has been a key part of the deer industry's Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion2Profit.
"Because eating venison in summer is a novel concept for European chefs and consumers, we have promoted summer sales under the banner of Cervena, an appellation that was new to Europe," said DINZ marketing manager Nick Taylor.
"This means some leading food service outlets are promoting Cervena in summer and NZ venison in winter, there's a clear differentiation," he said.
The summer Cervena programme began four years ago in the Netherlands and Belgium and, two years ago, was extended to Germany.
Sales quickly built to 90 tonnes, worth nearly $3 million, but are likely to grow only slowly from those levels while venison production remains at its current 20 year low.
"We are building a strong understanding of what works in the summer market, so we can scale up when supply increases," said Mr Taylor.
"While German culinary traditions are firmly held, we are working with a select group of innovative chefs who are looking to differentiate their menus and meet the needs of more adventurous diners," he said.
He notes that the 2018 northern summer presented challenges for marketers with consumers eating less meat because of high summer temperatures.
"However, what is great is that participating venison companies remain committed to supporting the summer Cervena programme next year," he said.