There’s nothing like getting on the ground talking to customers.

And that’s exactly what BeefLedger did in September.

A 1-week whistle-stop tour of six Chinese cities gave Chairman Warwick Powell and Director Charles Turner-Morris the opportunity to re-connect with our user and client community, as well as meet new partners and collaborators.

Engaging with our China community is central to BeefLedger’s Mission to deliver and sustain value growth to beef supply chain participants who are committed to a shared pursuit of excellence. We do this by developing and deploying leading-edge technologies incorporating blockchain and IOT technologies to enhance credentialing and streamline payments.

This ongoing market research and intelligence gathering is pivotal to ensuring technology and product solutions design is meets the needs of users. So, what are some of the things we’ve learned?



Market Context – Growth Brings Challenges

Demand for beef is growing in China. And there’s no way the domestic industry can keep up. Consequently, demand for imported beef has been growing significantly for the past 5-6 years, and is expected to continue on a strong upward trajectory.

Australian beef exports to China have already been riding this surge in demand, contributing around 35% of total (official) imported volumes (2017). We say “official” because it is widely known that there is a significant “grey market” of counterfeit product, where substitution undermines brand value, product quality and risks public safety.


Beef fraud is one of the most significant threats to national brand value and consumer confidence in the legitimate Australian beef offering. Tackling fraud risk and improving supply chain credibility can contribute to ensuring the opportunities afforded by China’s growing demand can be met – and met through the delivery of excellence.




Lessons and Insights

Set against a backdrop of rising demand and strong prices, buyers – whether they be wholesale importers, restauranteurs or end-consumers – are acutely aware of the need for better product credentialing. Not only does this go to a concern for better and more credible product provenance information, it also goes to questions of ease of data access and availability.

If time = money, then one of the big lessons is that buyers need solutions that help them achieve the credibility outcomes they seek in an efficient manner. Here are some of the specific highlights from our meetings:

  1. There is ongoing strong demand and desire for imported beef.
  2. At a more granular level, there’s demand for regionally credentialed product, in addition to needing confidence in basic “country of origin” credentialing. For example, our partners want to know where their beef comes from … not just that it’s from Australia (the starting point) but where in Australia. One chef expressed frustration that this line of visibility to specific production regions has been lost in the last 12 months.
  3. As an aside, another chef told us of the months’ of effort recently committed to sourcing primary produce from Tasmania, for an official function involving the Tasmanian Premier. Nine months’ of inquiries were needed to secure a modest range of product. However, this wasn’t problem free. Tasmania is known for its seafood. So, the head chef wanted to showcase Tasmanian oysters. It took him months to source notionally credentialed State product, but ultimately this proved futile as it was discovered that the oysters were actually grown in USA from Tasmania-sourced sprats.
  4. Reputations are critical to restaurants’ sustained competitive edge and credibility in a very competitive landscape … supply chain risk is a big part of maintaining reputations … diners are buying into a supply chain, in effect and restauranteurs know this acutely. Having access to streamlined supply chain procurement assistance is a space that the BeefLedger platform is working to fill.
  5. China is a complex multi-layered market place with differences marked by geographic and demographic considerations. Demand for imported beef is concentrated in the more affluent and globally-exposed cities, though the rapid growth of Japanese / Korean BBQ and Hot Pot across China generally is spurring demand for lower grades of imported beef product throughout the country.
  6. The preparation of beef at home in formats more reflective of “western” styles (eg., pan / skillet frying, grilling and to a much lesser extent roasting) is growing but from a very small base. Demand for beef delivered in formats suitable for this kind of preparation and consumption is more apparent amongst the more affluent, younger demographic particularly in southern cities (eg., Shanghai, Shenzhen). Northern Chinese consumption habits are somewhat different.
  7. Restaurants serving more traditional “western” menus are increasingly serving growing numbers of Chinese patrons. This contrast to 10+ years ago, when the audience was mainly expat workers and travellers. Red meat features on these restaurant menus, and is often positioned as a “meal for sharing” option.
  8. Home delivery a growing feature of contemporary life, reflected in the growth of online shopping platforms and delivery services. A colleague bemoaned their weight gain in recent months courtesy of the convenience of ordering home delivery via the Meituan
  9. Boasting of use of imported ingredients is a differentiator for restaurants seeking to “stand above the crowd”. The word “Australian” is frequently found before “beef” in a range of restaurant advertising and menu promotions.
  10. There is, nonetheless, deep-seated suspicion about the credibility of a lot of food products, including those that claim to be imported. Regular reported incidents of food fraud simply reinforce public scepticism in existing supply chains and their credentialing systems.

Coinciding with our roadshow, a major food safety scandal broke in a large Chinese hot pot restaurant chain. On 9 September global media reported the discovery of a rat in a hot pot. This knocked 12% off the market capitalisation of the chain in 24 hours, and placed a very bright spotlight on food safety in China.

From a BeefLedger perspective the feedback helps us refine our work priorities, and at the same time, affirms the presence of real and tangible needs for new credentialing systems to deliver value to supply chain participants who share a commitment to integrity, authenticity and excellence.