There is no better way to demonstrate the versatility of U.S. pork than to create a recipe utilizing the "other white meat" for each day of a month. This U.S. Meat Export Federation campaign combined with other activities continues to keep U.S. pork at the top of shopping lists in Japan.

"American pork export value to Japan has grown at a phenomenal rate and it is the largest value market for the United States," says Greg Hanes, USMEF Japan director. "The growth of imports into Japan has also made the market much more attractive to other exporting countries."

USMEF research shows the awareness of Canadian and Danish pork in Japan has been increasing over the last two years. To counter the increased competition, USMEF developed campaigns to build greater awareness of U.S. pork's quality and value to build consistent demand that is not based on price.

The USMEF daily menu campaign started in February with a cookbook release-- "Mainich Oishi American Pork 30" or "American Pork – 30 Delicious Recipes For Everyday." The cookbook features 30 recipes that utilize U.S. pork and was created by Makiko Fujino, a well-known cooking instructor in Japan and a highly-regarded National Diet member.

Many of the recipes also are featured on the USMEF Japan Web site, which receives more than 2,500 hits per day. The recipes also appear in newspaper ads with Fujino, retail menu cards and in other promotional materials.

The value of U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to Japan was more than $1 billion last year, nearly double that of Mexico, the second largest market for U.S. pork and more than 36 percent of the value of U.S. pork exports worldwide.

"In addition to marketing activities, USMEF has been active on other key market issues as well," Hanes says. Recently Japan revised its maximum residue limits list of 700 allowed compounds in food products. USMEF has been actively engaged with the Japanese government during this revision and worked closely with the U.S. industry to develop and disseminate this new information.

Additionally, USMEF is working to increase demand for a wider range of U.S. pork cuts. The "Mainichi Oishi" cookbook features recipes using five cuts – tenderloin, center loin cut, CT butt, single ribbed belly and spareribs. The attributes and cooking benefits of each cut are explained to consumers in an easy to understand manner.

It also takes familiar Japanese dishes and introduces new ways to enjoy them using U.S. pork. For example, curry rice is a popular dish in Japan and is normally prepared with beef; however, USMEF modified the recipe to use U.S. pork spare ribs instead. A special promotion featuring recipe cards was held at leading retail chains throughout the country. USMEF worked with House Foods, one of the largest food and curry manufactures in Japan, to promote the curry rice dish.

"Working with this major Japanese company helped validate this new recipe as being truly ‘Japanese’ among consumers and increased the promotional impact by conducting joint in-store promotions," Hanes says.

USMEF also launched a mini-sauce retail promotion in April featuring a ginger pork sauce developed for USMEF and "Jyan," one of the most popular "yakiniku" or grilled meat sauces. "Jyan" has traditionally been used for beef yakiniku, but the USMEF promotion demonstrates how U.S. pork can be substituted in this traditional Japanese dish. Adding these small sauce packs in the retail trays encourages consumers to try U.S. pork and develops buyer loyalty. More than 2,000 outlets represented by more than 20 retail companies, including all the majors, are participating in this promotion.

In April, USMEF conducted several high-profile events to promote processed U.S. pork products. At the Japan Meat Industry Showcase, USMEF worked with seven member companies to provide samples of U.S. pork sausages and pre-cooked bacon to key buyers. The following weekend, USMEF sponsored the Indy 300 race and distributed U.S. pork information and samples to the 80,000 race fans that came out for the three-day event.

Ongoing cooking schools utilizing popular TV chefs preparing U.S. pork dishes target young married women who make the food purchasing decisions. This summer two special consumer cooking schools will be promoted specifically to shoppers at two major retail chains.

"Importers and distributors are supportive of these activities as they are effective in increasing sales and building loyalty for U.S. pork," Hanes says.

Specific activities for the trade, such as seminars and educations programs, also will occur this summer. Consumer advertising will support the retail and foodservice "U.S. Pork Prize Sweepstake Campaign" in July and August as consumers who purchase U.S. pork can enter a sweepstakes drawing to win prizes. USMEF estimates nearly 2,700 outlets from most major retailers and leading restaurants will participate.

"As we work with retailers, we find that branding is becoming a more important tool for Japanese companies to add value and distinguish their products," Hanes says. "USMEF continues to work with these companies to develop ways to increase loyalty and improve profits when selling U.S. pork."

Since the United States is one of the few countries that can provide a consistent supply of high quality, chilled pork, the USMEF marketing campaign focused on making chilled U.S. pork a daily menu item continues to expand its outreach to make U.S. pork the top imported meat in Japan.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation