18 May 2017

‘Shop the story’ triggers wool chain of custody

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By Annabelle Cleeland


GLOBAL retailers have tapped into a new chain of custody for the Australian wool industry, which is set to process 500 tonne of wool under a new initiative between Australian Merino Exports and Roberts Limited.

About two years ago, AME, Roberts and Tasmanian woolgrowers Julian and Annabel von Bibra, took a gamble and financed the processing of 20t of wool tops which they then pitched to Italian mills.

Before having a customer that was interested in the product or concept, Italian spinner Tollengno acquired the single-origin clip, which this week hit the shelves under Country Road’s new Tasmanian Merino brand.

The von Bibra’s manage Beaufront, a 12,000 hectare property which produces 180 tonnes of fine merino wool a year from more than 25,000 sheep, and includes 200ha of conservation land.

Their marketable story has been grasped by €251 billion luxury business, Everlane, who has recently had the AME/Tasmanian Merino certification independently audited. 

The ability to “shop the story” is a movement which the wool industry has to be prepared for, according to Roberts Tasmania state wool manager Alistair Calvert, owner of Tasmanian Merino brand.

“We saw an opportunity to add some credibility and integrity to the supply chain,” Mr Calvert said.

“Our motivation was to ensure wool branded Tasmanian Merino was in fact Tasmanian Merino.

“From the other end of the supply chain, the retailer’s perspective, there is a push to understand where their products come from and how they are produced.

“Motivation might be different but end game is the same, which is to verify what you’re selling.”

Since 2013, Alpine equipment and sportswear company Ortovox has utilised the Tasmanian Merino supply chain, telling the story of their raw product suppliers at retail level.

Ortovox has experienced double digit growth in sales each year for the past five years, which Mr Calvert said was in part due to this marketing.

During this week’s Australian Superfine Woolgrowers conference held in Hamilton, AME wool buyer Andrew Worthington said garments using AME certification were fully traceable to the farm gate. 

Mr Worthington said the authenticity packages developed by AME guaranteed clients certificates of origin, mulesing status and had the ability to expand to include clients’, being processors or retails, specific requirements.

“One of these certifications have recently been audited by an independent United States-based auditing company, ARCHE advisors,”  he said.

“This company specialises in traceability programs and corporate social responsibility.”

He said increasingly consumer trends saw clients request wool certified Non-mulesed.

“Initially this was being driven by countries in Europe and Japan but this has now transferred to China and South East Asian countries in the past two years,” Mr Worthington said.

“More and more, clients are wanting to shorten the supply chain, with retailers showing interest in increased transfer of information, traceability, and guarantee in animal welfare, due to consumer demands.

“Wool can no longer be seen as a commodity but a niche market that needs to meet specific consumer needs and reach specialised markets to show it’s difference from other fibres.”

Australian Merino Exports wool buyer Andrew Worthington
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