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A significant number of bison marketers could increase sales by more than 25 percent if adequate supplies of market-ready animals were available, according to a survey recently conducted by the National Bison Association, based in Westminster, Colo.
The association in late May conducted an online survey of the industry's 12 largest marketers in order to gain insight into the issues that are facing the bison business in the marketplace. The results were announced late last week at the association's annual summer conference in Big Sky, Mont.
Half of the marketers responding to the survey said they could boost sales by more than 25 percent at today's prices.
The marketers recognize that the shortage of supply is a long-term issue, and will require significant effort to expand the herds of market-ready animals. Ninety percent of the respondents said that the tight supply situation would continue at least until 2014.
"All of us marketers are looking at this year's calf crop, because that will be our supply in 2014," said Bruce Anderson, chair of the NBA Commercial Marketers' Committee, and owner of Western Buffalo Co. in Rapid City, S.D.
The marketers universally weighed in with comments that targeted herd expansion as the number one priority for the industry.
"Focus on retaining existing producers and encouraging new producers in the industry," wrote one respondent. Another noted, "(The NBA should work to) increase the herd and stabilize prices to a profitable but sustainable level."
The marketers' survey indicated that retail sales are capturing a larger share of the overall marketplace. The respondents noted that the marketplace is split roughly even between retail and foodservice customers, but that retail sales are increasing at a more rapid pace. A market study conducted in 2003 found that sales in restaurants and other foodservice outlets comprised 80 percent of the bison market at that time.
Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, said, "Years ago, people weren't as familiar with bison and were more willing to try it in a restaurant. Once they took their first bite, they loved the product and began looking for it in the grocery stores."
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