While pork prices are rising at the retail level, demand continues to increase thanks in part to creative marketing programs here at home and abroad.

But, while price is an important factor for most of us, pork is a necessity to many consumers around the world. Domestic and foreign consumers alike know a great food when they taste one.

U.S. pork producers are the world leaders in providing the best product at the best price, bar none. Creative pork marketing programs help support that stellar performance and drive demand by carving out new niches and targeting new customers.

Heading up domestic U.S. pork marketing efforts is the National Pork Board’s pork checkoff program. The industry’s new ‘Pork. Be Inspired’ advertising campaign will receive $45 million in funding as the program makes consumers’ mouth water each time they see one of the commercials, read an advertisement or try a new recipe.

Creative marketing programs have the ability to transform a consumer’s experience with pork by sparking curiosity and a willingness to try something new. Once routine grilled pork chops are replaced by bacon-wrapped pork chops with seasoned butter, consumers may be more likely to repeat the recipe. They also will be more likely to pass along an enthusiastic recommendation to friends.

While pork marketing programs can succeed in many efforts, the industry’s recipe contests have proven to be a highly successful consumer motivator. NPB’s current Latino recipe contest will get the creative juices flowing in Hispanic chefs and cooks as they prepare new flavorful and savory pork dishes for competition. I for one, look forward to learning and using the new recipes for the contest’s winning pork dishes to be announced in May.

The contest incorporates the marketing muscle of pork’s selling partners H-E-B supermarkets in San Antonio and Food-4-Less in Los Angeles-- co-sponsors of the recipe contest. A website specific to Hispanic consumers helps put the recipe contest in the spotlight.

Pork marketing is fluent in many languages. Taking the lead in sparking international demand is the U.S. Meat Export Federation. International shipments of U.S. pork are increasing in importance and USMEF marketing efforts stimulate appetites for U.S. pork around the world.

USMEF marketing efforts are paying off. For the month of February, 27 percent of U.S. pork production was shipped to foreign markets. In Japan, the leading value market for U.S. pork, exports were up 19 percent in volume for the first two months of 2011. However, South Korea currently leads in growth for U.S. pork consumption, where monthly export totals jumped 154 percent in volume over February 2010.

With offices in major trading partners’ countries, USMEF makes it a priority to know local trends and to understand consumer preferences, cooking techniques and local customs. In each location, USMEF teams work with local food suppliers and chefs to drive up demand and stimulate consumer interest in U.S. pork.

Take the pork butt, for example. USMEF recently unveiled a global initiative to increase sales of this tender, flavorful and affordable pork cut by working with foreign buyers on new ways to promote and merchandise this often under-utilized cut. The efforts target Canadian, Mexican, Caribbean and Asian markets and highlight creative cooking techniques and preferred regional flavorings.

There is no doubt that U.S. pork has a great story to tell and marketing programs from Seoul to San Antonio add the sizzle. It all adds up to the crucial role marketing plays in bringing high quality U.S. pork to dinner tables all around the world.