In an effort to increase consumption of U.S. chilled pork in Japan during the winter season, USMEF launched two campaigns to educate consumers and encourage them to include pork in their meal planning. The campaigns – one featured Gochipo ad trays in retail meat cases and the other offered tips for preparing thick-cut pork – were funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the Pork Checkoff, the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board.
Gochipo, the U.S. pork mascot in Japan, has been popular with consumers and enhanced the image of U.S. pork. Consumers who purchased U.S. pork items in Gochipo ad trays qualified for a number of prizes, including U.S. pork loin and a bottle of California wine. Special Gochipo towels were also awarded.
As a bonus, the six ad trays designed by USMEF showcased a variety of U.S. pork cuts, along with special winter recipes. Thick-cut loins, thick-cut CT butts, thick-cut bellies and tenderloins were offered as part of the promotion.
“We conducted this same kind of Gochipo ad tray campaign for the first time back in the spring and summer of 2016 and received very positive feedback from retailers,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF director in Japan, who noted that USMEF expected 2,500 to 3,000 retail outlets to participate in the winter campaign. “With retailers wanting to sell more thick-cut items, this ad tray was a good promotional tool because it highlighted U.S. pork cuts and provided recipes that Japanese consumers are interested in trying during the winter. And it featured Gochipo, which is always popular.”
The second winter campaign, the “Thick Cut Meat Project,” is designed to help educate Japanese consumers about thick-cut pork, also referred to as “block-cut pork.” USMEF developed educational materials and videos for a website to show consumers how to cut and cook these products. USMEF also encouraged retailers who sell mostly thin-sliced pork to offer more thick-cut items.
“A Wal-Mart/Seiyu pork buyer informed USMEF that they tried to sell more thick-cut pork items, but consumers did not know how to cut them,” Yamashoji explained. “We thought this was not only happening at Wal-Mart/Seiyu, but probably at a lot of retailers, and that’s why we started the project.”
USMEF developed a special sticker to attach on the thick-cut items at retail meat cases. Consumers who purchase items can see the sticker, which directs them to the website for information and instruction. The Thick-Cut Meat Project site can be found at http://www.americanmeat.jp/csm/topics/pork_katamari/main.html.
Yamashoji expects 15 to 20 companies to participate in the project. The emphasis on thick-cut pork helped drive exports of chilled U.S. pork to new heights in 2016. Through November, chilled exports reached 201,828 metric tons – up 10 percent from the same period in 2015.