Innovate or go home, says pork boss

SunPork executive general manager Darryl D’Souza.

Product innovation is a risk, but it is one the red meat industry must take, SunPork executive general manager Darryl D’Souza told the 2022 ICMJ National Conference in Wagga Wagga on July 5.

“If you don’t maximise the value of all the cuts within a pork carcase you limit the revenue you get from the sale of that pig and in some instances it could be make or break,” Dr D’Souza said.

Describing it as a fine balance, Dr D’Souza said the company was constantly innovating with up to 40 product ideas within its various product development stages at any given time.

“For every 10 ideas, maybe one will get through to market,” he said.

With more than 1500 staff across 43 Australian farms, six New Zealand farms, three feedmills, two abattoirs and two value-add facilities, SunPork produces more than 20 per cent of Australia’s pork.

The company’s value-adding facilities produce 52 different products ranging from portion-packed cuts to marinated and slow-cooked products designed to offer convenient and tasty solutions for a growing consumer segment.

Despite a high level of investment in consumer research, market analysis, expanded facilities, specialised processing equipment and close consultation with retailers, Dr D’Souza said success in the product development space was never guaranteed.

“Still to this day I consider our most innovative product a pre-cooked, natural sausage with no preservatives or allergens,” he said.

“It even the came with pre-marked singe marks on the casing to look as though it had been on a grill plate. It was fantastic — but it failed spectacularly and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Dr D’Souza said incorrect product placement was ultimately its downfall.

But for every failure, there are multiple success stories, including SunPork’s rival to the supermarket hot chook — the grab and go roast pork — born during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr D’Souza said although value-adding was not a new concept to the red meat sector, the key was in spending the time to look for novel ideas that provide something unique.

He was one of several red meat industry leaders who gave valuable industry insights during the conference, which ran until July 9.