Working to displace a major competitor of U.S. beef in China, USMEF partnered with two Sam’s Club stores in Shanghai for “burger festivals” that included educational sessions and tastings at each location. Funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program, the retail promotions also featured Chinese shoppers and their children learning to build American-style burgers and competing against other shoppers during in-store contests. USMEF is a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.
USMEF chefs led interactive sessions, preparing U.S. beef burgers while providing Sam’s Club customers tips on cooking and serving them. Shoppers who participated in a series of burger making contests competed to win a pack of U.S. beef patties. At the same time, U.S. beef ribeyes and other cuts of U.S. red meat were promoted in the contest areas.
Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China, said the goal of the burger festivals was to increase awareness of U.S. red meat products, with a special focus on alternative cuts of U.S. beef ground into patties.
“This was the first time we attempted this type of event with Sam’s Club and we saw it as a new way to get families together to learn about burgers and even make one themselves, which is different from the usual in-store samplings and retail promotions,” explained Liang. “We saw right away that this kind of activity not only motivates consumers to get involved, it also helps them learn about the convenience and nutritional value of U.S. beef. We expect this to encourage other retailers and supermarkets in China to go in a new direction and to experiment with new ways to promote U.S. red meat.”
Liang said Sam’s Club stores in China have primarily been selling Australian beef. Following the burger festivals in Shanghai, he believes Sam’s Club realizes U.S. beef’s potential in the marketplace.
Walmart opened the first Sam’s Club in China in 1996. That initial store in Shenzhen has been followed by 23 more locations in 19 cities, serving more than two million members. Walmart announced earlier this year that it plans to have a total of 40 Sam’s Club stores in China by the end of 2020.
“It is worth mentioning that Sam’s Club opened a new store in the Qingpu District in June of this year, and that store has already put U.S. beef products on its shelves – short ribs, ribeye, top blade muscle, chuck eye roll, shank rib fingers and patties,” said Liang. “Meanwhile, the Shenzhen and Beijing Sam’s Club locations took great interest in what USMEF did at the two Shanghai stores. They are interested in conducting burger festivals of their own, possibly by the end of this year.”
The Shanghai burger festivals drew substantial media attention, both locally and on a national level. An example can be found in this China Today report.