Korea’s Largest Retailer Takes Steps to Sell More U.S. Beef SteaksPublished: Monday, April 23rd, 2018
Promoting thick-cut and dry-aged steaks while offering new ideas for preparing U.S. beef, USMEF partnered with the largest grocery chain in South Korea to conduct a series of educational sessions for retail meat department managers. Funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, the “E-Mart Steak Cooking Class” addressed the growing interest in steak dishes across Korea. USMEF is a contractor of the beef checkoff.
“Beef in Korea has for many years been marinated for bulgogi and braised for soup and stew,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea. “However, beef consumption trends have rapidly changed in the past couple of years, with an increasing demand for steak.”
Yang explained that until recently, Korean consumers considered cooking steak to be a professional and technical undertaking. But TV cooking shows and social media platforms focused on cooking have helped generate interest in a variety of steak items. Adding to the fervor is the fact that more and more steakhouses in Korea were highlighted on cooking shows.
The number of single-person households in Korea has also increased, and single people often prefer to cook steaks rather than traditional beef soup and stew. With these cultural changes in mind, E-Mart, which operates 145 stores across Korea, recently redesigned its meat display cases for the first time in 25 years.
“Meat in E-Mart cases used to be displayed according to origin, but they changed it up last year and began displaying meat by the name of the cut,” said Yang. “At the same time, E-Mart launched a special display case called the ‘Steak Zone’ and installed separate refrigeration cases to highlight thick-cut beef as a way for some stores to boost steak sales.”
With plans to further expand steak offerings in 2018, E-Mart turned to USMEF for help educating the chain’s meat department managers. USMEF and E-Mart selected managers from several E-Mart stores to attend the cooking classes. Junil Park, USMEF senior marketing manager in Korea, opened each class by explaining the advantages and attributes of U.S. beef.
Jung Sunggu, a Korean chef who operates his own restaurant featuring U.S. dry-aged steaks, demonstrated to participants how to cook a perfect steak at home and how to prepare dry-aged beef cuts.
After the demonstration, each E-Mart employee had a chance to cook and taste a U.S. beef striploin steak.
“The meat department managers said it was a wonderful opportunity to learn the details of U.S. beef, especially tips on thickness and temperature and how the flavor of the meat can be brought out with various cooking methods,” said Yang. “These managers are very eager to learn about cooking steaks, and it was encouraging to see the high level of interest in new cuts.”
Korea’s growing interest in beef steaks can also be seen on social media, where posts about steak dishes have dramatically increased in recent years. More concrete evidence is the fact that E-Mart reported sales of steak cuts accelerating by 56 percent (from $4.1 million to $6.4 million) over a two-year period.