July 9, 2013

USMEF Aggressively Marketing U.S. Beef in Japan

TOKYO, JAPAN (Tuesday, July 9)—The day began with a briefing from the USMEF Japan staff on the marketplace and the renewed potential of American beef since the "less than 30 month" regulation went into effect and dramatically increased the supply of U.S. beef to Japan.

Taz Hijikata, USMEF Consumer Affairs Senior Manager, shared some interesting facts:
Taz Hijikata of USMEF shares insights on the
Japanese consumer marketplace for beef.

  • More than 80% of Japanese consumers shop at the grocery store either every day or every other day, with 23.5% shopping every day for food.
  • 50% of women have jobs outside the home.
  • Japanese in Tokyo typically live in very small apartments with small kitchens, with little food storage and limited food preparation space/capability.
  • Beef commands only about 10% share of the meat market in Japan.  Seafood (49%) is number one, with pork (21%) and chicken (20%) taking second and third.  
  • Japan's per capita use of red meat is roughly one-tenth of that in the U.S., so there is plenty of upside potential.

Since the regulations allowing the import of 30 month or less beef from the U.S. were lifted in February 2013, Japan is on track to regain its position as the Number One importer of U.S. beef.   In fact, imports are expected to exceed $1 billion in value in 2013—up from practically zero in 2006.

In the ten years since the incidence of BSE in the U.S., there has not been an adequate and reliable beef supply from the U.S. to Japan.  Consequently, the Japanese consumer has forgotten the delicious difference of U.S. beef.   (Consider that a 26-year-old female consumer today was a teenager when American beef virtually disappeared from the marketplace.)

Kyle Cantrell and Doug Parde look over some of the U.S.
beef promotional materials that have been
developed by USMEF.
While U.S. beef was essentially shut out of the Japan market, the Australians have established a strong foothold in the marketplace.  "Aussie" beef has become the standard, so the U.S. has a re-education process to implement.   Part of the problem has been the inconsistency of supply while the U.S. was operating under the 20-month-or-under rule, due to fewer cattle in the system.   Now with more cattle available, the U.S can again become a reliable and consistent supplier to the world marketplace.

When put to the taste test, American beef wins every time. In November 2007, only 22.9% of consumers said they would buy U.S. beef.  In March 2013, that number had risen to 65.1%.

Capturing the female consumer is key to success of regaining the U.S. beef market in Japan.  USMEF has been aggressively promoting the increased availability through its "juku" campaign—a word that means both "delicious" and "immediately available/ready."   The USMEF campaign declares the advent for more U.S. beef as a "wonderful moment" for the Japanese consumer. 

To that end, USMEF has been extremely successful in gaining attention for U.S. beef.  Media news coverage has been very positive, resulting in the equivalent of more than $1.5 million of exposure.   A sweepstakes campaign, running from June through August in partnership with 1500 retail outlets, is gaining widespread involvement—with the winners receiving American beef products. 

Dean & Deluca, a high-end retailer, has switched from Aussie beef to U.S. beef.  Several large retailers have begun to add more beef to their meat cases.   In fact, the top three grocery stores in Japan carry U.S. beef.

USMEF is also attempting to change the beef serving habits of Japanese consumers.  Currently, Japanese families typically slice beef into very thin strips and cook it with vegetables and other ingredients to serve.  USMEF is working to get consumers to buy larger, thicker cuts of American beef, cook those cuts in one piece, and then slice and serve at the dinner table. 

USMEF is also pointing out that the U.S. has a grading system for its beef, unlike any other major beef supplier to Japan.   With the new 30-month rule, they are promoting that the best of the best of U.S. beef—and more of it—is now available to Japanese consumers.

Another important point:  Japan readily takes cuts of beef that do not sell well in the U.S.  Tongue, intestines, and other "variety meat" cuts are desired in Japan—
and that adds considerable value to a U.S. beef carcass.
Mark Jagels, Nebraska Corn Board director
and chair-elect of USMEF, addresses
a group of 50 Japanese beef buyers.

For example, beef tongue, which brings about $1.50/lb in the U.S., will garner $7 in Japan.  Intestines that go for 50 cents/lb. in the U.S. will command $2 in Japan.  Together, these two products alone can account for $330 million in export sales to Japan—and more cattle available will mean American beef producers can meet that demand.

The mission team also sat in briefly at a "purveyor" information session sponsored by USMEF, which attracted some 50 beef buyers who sell to restaurants and hotels.   Attendees included Cargill, Tyson and other major companies.   Mark Jagels of Davenport, member of the Nebraska Corn Board and chair-elect of USMEF, made brief remarks to the group—thanking them for their support of and confidence in U.S. beef.

The Nebraska group felt that USMEF has a great plan to recapture the Japan market for U.S. beef—and that USMEF is very fired up about the potential.   The numbers are playing out as Japan looks to again become the largest importer of great-tasting U.S. beef.

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