Pro Golfer Greg Norman, an Australian known as "The Great White Shark," has expanded his ranching and ag enterprises by introducing a line of premium Wagyu beef into the U.S. Called "Greg Norman Australian Prime," the line recently celebrated its first anniversary in the U.S.
According to General Manager Russ Supplee, the line offers two products -- the Signature Wagyu (360-day, grain-fed Kobe-style product) and Greg Norman Premium (fed a more standard 130 days). The company moved 10 tons of each in 2007.
"We're expecting to increase both lines 30-35% in volume" in 2008, Supplee says, with most of the increase coming from retail stores. Their main outlets have been high-end food service, such as golf clubs, resorts and white-tablecloth restaurants. But high-end retailers are asking for more product, and Supplee says their sirloin cuts, as well as hamburger patties and hot dogs, are selling well in retail stores.
"Americans and the demographic we're targeting have an appreciation for a good, imported product," he says. "That's not to say it's always their product of choice. But when presented with something like this, I think the Australian connection works to our advantage."
That's why Supplee doesn't see the country-of-origin labeling fight in the farm bill as a threat. "I think it will either work to our advantage or will have no negative impact on us," he says. Americans have an affinity for Australia, he said, and the country is usually No. 1 in surveys of places Americans want to visit. "We have retailers and restaurants that don't necessarily brand it Greg Norman, but they brand it Australian. Either of those brand attributes works to our advantage."
Because of what he calls a "rapidly shrinking supply of USDA Prime," he says U.S. beef producers don't have cause for worry. They're a niche product, he says, and the niche they're trying to reach is top-end Prime beef -- a niche U.S. brands have been unable to fill.
"Certified Angus Beef® was a brand when it first started, but now it's almost like saying Xerox in some ways. It's just been out there for so long it's become diluted. I think we bring a very exciting product into a market that hasn't seen a branded product on this level in quite some time, if ever," he says.