‘Foodies Festival’ Puts Focus on U.S. Pork in Major Chinese CitiesPublished: Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Three cities in China were selected for late-summer activities designed to improve awareness of U.S pork and increase sales of U.S. pork dishes in popular restaurants. Funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Pork Checkoff, USMEF’s “U.S. Pork Foodies Festival” – held in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – also created social media activity that offered Chinese consumers opportunities to learn more about U.S. pork.
“The Foodies Festival is an important component of our long-term strategy to develop more awareness of U.S. pork and improve our relationship with local restaurants,” said Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in Shanghai.
“As more Chinese consumers – especially those who are considered ‘foodies’ – travel beyond their own region looking for good restaurants and dining experiences, we see an opportunity to promote U.S. pork in the China market, as well as improve the brand in the eyes of Chinese people.”
Kicking off the event in Shanghai, USMEF released a global cuisine map – a sort of search engine for foodies – that is linked to the Chinese mobile messaging service WeChat. Through this social media platform, consumers are able to find and call restaurants serving U.S. pork by simply clicking a button. The featured businesses on the cuisine map include several of the restaurants participating in U.S. pork group tasting dinners during the Foodies Festival.
After enjoying menu items featuring U.S. pork, consumers taking part in the tasting dinners reported their experience on WeChat. According to USMEF representatives in China, consumers posted positive comments about the U.S. pork experience, many noting that they would recommend the pork dishes and the restaurants to their friends.
Also at the Shanghai event, celebrity TV chef Johnny Yang shared with consumers his thoughts on using U.S. pork, as well as ideas for cooking methods and applications. Along with describing cuts of U.S. pork that work well for Chinese dishes, Yang pointed out the value of U.S. pork as raw material for processing.
For the Foodies Festival in Beijing, USMEF organized a U.S. pork eating competition that included the owner of BLT restaurant and a group of Chinese Harley-Davidson fans. USMEF partnered with local companies to recruit contestants for the competition, along with a large audience. Bruce Zanin, minister counselor for agricultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, was on hand to give opening remarks. Ten contestants then competed for the eating championship, awarded to the first to consume a meal made up of soup, salad, fries and U.S. pork spareribs.
Liang said the U.S. Pork Foodies Festival was also a big hit in Guangzhou, where tasting dinners brought together consumers of all ages to try U.S. pork. As was the case with events held in other cities, participants used WeChat to win prizes for sharing their experiences.
“The majority of consumers expressed that they seldom order pork in western restaurants, but after trying our products during this year’s foodie events, well over half said they are eager to let their friends know about the high quality of U.S. pork,” Liang added. “Several also commented that if, in the future, they see U.S. pork on the menu when they dine out, they are willing to order it.”
To get even more exposure in the host cities, promotions were placed on mobile platforms used by shoppers. A U.S. pork logo was included in the promotions and the information was seen by thousands of Chinese shoppers.
Restaurants that teamed with USMEF also saw a spike in business. In discussions with managers and chefs following the Foodies Festival, Liang learned of impressive results:
- In Beijing, BLT restaurants saw sales of U.S. pork dishes increase 5 to 13 percent at their locations.
- Homeplate sold 10 percent more U.S pork spareribs compared to the previous month.
- In Shanghai, Jishi restaurants also promoted U.S. pork butt on their lunch menu and sold more than 1,000 dishes at three outlets.
- At Miaoxiaochu, a newly opened Shanghai restaurant, four U.S. pork selections have been designated as signature dishes. Meanwhile the restaurant’s chef is exploring the lunch box market and would like to try more low-cost U.S. pork cuts in lunch boxes.
- World of Beers, an American bar and restaurant chain in the Chinese market, reported that sales have increased by nearly 30 percent after USMEF’s tasting dinner with U.S. Pork Foodies Festival.