Talking beef with Ivo Wegmann and Lorenz Wyss

The secret Natura-Beef’s success – a remarkable partnership ‘from fork to fork‘

Natura-Beef and Natura-Veal: for 40 and 11 years respectively, meat from grass and species-appropriate suckler cow husbandry. Quality from A to Z or from (pitch)fork to (table) fork. (Photo: mad)

40 years ago suckler cow breeders launched the Natura-Beef brand. How did this come about?

Ivo Wegmann (IW): At the time brands were still unknown on the meat market. People didn’t believe that a brand could achieve real recognition.
Lorenz Wyss (LW): Right. When I completed my apprenticeship as a butcher, there were indeed labels on meat production, but these referred to the processing. I could hardly imagine then that meat could be associated with a strong brand.

Natura-Beef has done this. What’s the secret of its success?

IW: Several aspects were important at the time of launch. The most important was that first a marketing channel had to be created for animals from suckler cow husbandry, because this type of livestock farming was unknown in Switzerland back then. The Board and expert marketing group of Suckler Cow Switzerland had to come up with good arguments for both butchers and consumers.

LW: That’s right, I was not familiar then with the comprehensive approach of ‘fork to fork‘. – the idea of marketing meat with the whole production process from the pitchfork through to the fork on the dining table.

IW: Natura-Beef has done just that. It was the first meat label with an all-embracing approach. It includes everything from appropriate livestock rearing and feeding to quality and guaranteed traceability.

Being the first label – was that the key to success?

LW: Yes, but not only. Transparency with respect to dealing, quantities and prices was emphasized from the outset and is based on a unique partnership. When I came to Coop 25 years ago I dealt with the sale of Natura-Beef for the first time. Natura-Beef was a major pillar in the creation of Naturaplan, and is so strong as a product that it has found favour with consumers. Furthermore, it has withstood the structural changes in the retail trade.  Later I switched to Bell, and Natura-Beef remained in my file. The long-standing cooperation between Suckler Cow Switzerland, VIANCO, Viegut, Bell and Coop is a model for many. The strength of such a partnership can be seen above all in strategic planning and in crisis situations.

IW: I also think that this unique partnership has contributed significantly to the success. Coop and Suckler Cow Switzerland work hard on communication so that Natura-Beef maintains its presence and is viewed in the right light. We need to say what we are doing while at the same time doing what we say, of course. Otherwise it won’t work. And naturally the quality must also be right. At the beginning this was very uneven. Everything was new, both producers and product. The technique was unfamiliar and there was no user’s guide. Farmers as well as butchers had to deal with quality complaints

LW: Today it’s a different story. Butchers have learned how to handle this unique meat and the producers have become professionals. Without this marked improvement in quality, Natura-Beef wouldn‘t have reached today‘s level.

Livestock farming continues to be a controversial factor in the debate on climate. But letting suckler cows and their calves graze on alpine meadows and steep slopes is an ideal way of preserving these unique landscapes. (Photo : mad)

Suckler Cow Switzerland has always taken up and integrated current trends in order to develop Natura-Beef further. What trends do you see today?

IW: Natura-Beef and its sister brand Natura-Veal, launched eleven years ago, are well positioned. The products stand for what is required of agriculture and the meat sector, so we win over consumers. We must build on our strengths – animal welfare, meat from grass, and product quality. In this way, we can also master new challenges. One example is the climate debate. In assessing this subject globally, one comes to the conclusion that the use of our grasslands is one of the best answers to this question.

LW: Natura-Beef is the original. Bell invests in quality, animal welfare and logistics. There is a high level of expertise, and yet in the slaughterhouse project in Oensingen further new aspects are already involved in the delivery of animals, slaughtering and processing. Discussions about vegetarianism and veganism will continue. We must inspire those consumers who seek to enjoy meat while taking into consideration the animals, nature and the environment. The potential is great.

IW: Exactly – and a pioneering spirit is still in demand! We must continue to have the courage to find exceptional solutions.

LW: No question! Bell is right there.

Lorenz Wyss, CEO Bell Food Group, (left) is delighted with the long-standing solid partnership with Suckler Cow Switzerland and the success of Natura-Beef on the market. (Photo: Bell Food Group)

Ivo Wegmann, today Board Delegate of VIANCO AG, was co-founder of Suckler Cow Switzerland (1977) and founder of beef.ch (1996). Suckler cow husbandry has always been his passion. (Photo: mad)