The Texas Beef Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) recently teamed up to showcase barbecue concepts in two of the top-performing markets for U.S. beef – Japan and Taiwan. Funding support for these promotional efforts, which included presentations to importers, retailers and the food media, was provided by the Texas Beef Council.
Bill Wight, a Texas cow-calf producer, and Brad Hastings, president of Cactus Cattle Producers, met with various groups in both countries to explain U.S. beef production, while Bryan Bracewell, owner of Southside Market & Barbecue in Elgin, Texas, explained traditional Texas barbecue techniques. Bracewell’s restaurant was recently featured in Time Magazine as one of the best barbecue restaurants in Texas.
Bracewell’s demonstration of rubs and sauces fit well with USMEF’s launch of its “Urban BBQ” campaign, which is designed to show Japanese consumers that American-style barbecue – including Texas barbecue – can be made easily without large smokers or other professional equipment.
“Japanese consumers really like the taste of American barbecue, but one hurdle to it really catching on is that they think it is difficult to prepare,” said Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president of international marketing and programs. “We are working to dispel that belief with the ‘Urban BBQ’ image and explaining that preparing American-style barbecue is really fun and easy.”
USMEF began focusing on barbecue in Japan several years ago, so this campaign is a continuation of work aimed at expanding the concept and demonstrating how it can be incorporated both by restaurants and consumers who choose to cook at home. In Taiwan, the promotion of American-style barbecue is relatively new, Hanes said.
“Each year, USMEF introduces new beef cuts into the Taiwanese market,” Hanes explained. “This year the focus is on brisket and sirloin cap, which fit nicely into Texas barbecue.”
Along with demonstrating U.S. beef and discussing production back home, the Texas team visited several retailers in both Japan and Taiwan to see how products are merchandised in each country and get a better understanding of competitors’ efforts. The team also conducted interviews with Japanese media, which included Bracewell providing a hands-on demonstration using several U.S. beef cuts that work extremely well for traditional Texas barbecue.
For their part, Wight and Hastings explained the practices employed by the U.S. beef industry to develop a high-quality product from ranch to plate.
“An important thing to Japanese consumers is to see a ‘face’ of the industry, to show the actual people involved in production,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan director. “At the same time, having these producers from Texas here in Japan to meet the media and people in the food industry helps them also gain a deeper understanding of the market – how products are merchandised, competition, and what cuts are popular.
The visit to Japan included stops at the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu in Tokyo and the Sazaby League in Sendagaya, where the team presented innovative beef menu concepts for hotels and restaurants. Visits to Daiei Colton Plaza and Comodi Iida Kameido allowed the team to observe U.S. beef products for sale at retail. They took in the Tokyo Meat Market to observe a Wagyu carcass auction and toured Starzen, Japan’s large meat importer/distributor.
In Taiwan, the team took part in the Taipei Food Show, where Bracewell again demonstrated and explained American-style barbecue methods. The team later met with six major importers who were participating in the show, and wrapped up the trip with visits to Taiwanese restaurants, retailers and distribution companies – including Costco-Neihu, Taiwan’s largest U.S. chilled beef outlet.
In the first half of 2016, U.S. beef reclaimed market share in Japan – climbing from 33% of Japan’s total beef import volume in 2015, to 38.5% this year. In terms of value, U.S. market share increased from 38% to 41.5%.
The United States is Taiwan’s largest beef supplier, with 32% market share by volume and 44% by value. The U.S. holds 68% of the imported chilled beef market in Taiwan – the highest share of any Asian market.
Ralph Loos is communications director for the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
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