Making progress on what is expected to be a long path toward building the U.S. beef market in China, USMEF recently participated in several trainings and promotions, including a ceremony that welcomed U.S. beef into one of the country’s most innovative restaurant chains. U.S. beef cutting demonstrations and retail campaigns were funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Getting U.S. beef on the menu at Peter’s Gourmet, a beef bar concept launched in Shanghai two years ago, was a huge win, USMEF Marketing Director Ming Liang said.
“Since the first restaurant opened, customers have been able to select their cut of beef from U.S. competitors and have it grilled right there at the counter as the customer watches,” said Liang. “The cook places in the cut a flag from its originating country, so it is nice to see the American flag all over the Peter’s Gourmet grills.”
The new concept is described as “fast food steakhouse,” where customers can choose not only where the meat comes from, but also how it is prepared. The cut is served on a convenient tray that allows them to eat at a table or on the go. Described as a convenient and consumer-friendly concept, Peter’s Gourmet is also part butcher shop, with cuts of beef from different countries available for purchase without cooking.
Peter’s Gourmet is operated by Topping Cuisine International (TCI), a major food importer, distributor, meat processor and restaurant chain operator based in Shanghai. Three weeks before the welcoming ceremony, a USMEF delegation known as the U.S. Beef China Roadshow visited a Peter’s Gourmet on its Shanghai stop to sample the menu and see how Chinese consumers receive this restaurant concept.
“This is the kind of dining experience that is beginning to take hold across Asia, and it’s encouraging to see Peter’s Gourmet in China add U.S. beef because the concept should move a lot of product consistently,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. “Our competition has a big head start on us, but getting U.S. beef in here will give exposure to more consumers and help us gain momentum.”
TCI holds a very influential position in the China HRI sector today, said Liang, who noted that U.S. beef black Angus striploin and ribeye have initially been placed on the chain’s menus. Early reports show that U.S. beef is doing well against its competition.
“Peter’s management has reported that since the initial launch, U.S. beef sales volume in some of the chain’s stores has grown from just 5 percent to 50 percent of total sales,” said Liang.
Several media outlets and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) joined USMEF in the ceremony welcoming U.S. beef. The event featured an American-style barbecue that included U.S. beef chuck eye roll, top blade and clod heart. More than 80 TCI employees attended, and some of them took part in a U.S. beef cutting training held earlier in the day. The training was one of several cutting sessions conducted by USMEF in and around Shanghai.
Meanwhile, USMEF’s efforts to gain momentum for U.S. beef in China led to a partnership with Metro supermarkets. The campaign began at four Metro locations in Shanghai but quickly expanded to 17 of the top Metro stores across China. The promotion runs through December and highlights U.S. beef boneless chuck tender, heel muscle, top blade muscle, boneless eye round and boneless rib fingers.