With a goal of increasing the volume of U.S. beef sold at the retail level in Japan, USMEF shared a new merchandising idea during a seminar for foodservice buyers and restaurant owners. The “pound steak” campaign, which was followed by a “My Pound Steak” Instagram event for consumers, was funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program. USMEF is a contractor to the beef checkoff.
“The catchphrase ‘pound steak’ is all about U.S. beef thick-cut steak, which is something we are really trying to establish as a consumer food trend in Japan,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan director. “Typically, steaks in Japan are served at sizes from 6 to 8 ounces. Our idea is to convince foodservice operators and restaurants to serve steaks that are 15 to 16 ounces, which is equal to one pound – thus the ‘pound steak’ campaign, a way to enjoy the taste and quality of U.S. beef as thick-cut steak.”
For the campaign, USMEF developed special promotional materials for retailers, including stickers for packages in retail meat displays, recipe cards that offer instructions on how to prepare U.S. beef pound steak and steak seasonings. Advertising banners were installed in several subway stations and other busy gathering points as part of the campaign.
“Within the first three weeks of introducing the pound steak idea to retailers, we received a large number of applications and offered the materials to 50 retail companies operating more than 2,000 outlets all over Japan,” said Yamashoji. “Each wanted to participate in the pound steak campaign as a way to attract attention to their respective businesses and sell more U.S. beef.”
To kick off the campaign, USMEF conducted a seminar for 60 foodservice buyers and restaurant owners. The seminar included an educational session on U.S. beef and the pound steak concept, as well as a panel discussion to help participants get a better understanding of the product and the campaign.
USMEF CEO Emeritus Philip Seng gave opening remarks at the seminar.
“U.S. beef has been well known among Japanese consumers and chilled exports to Japan increased more than 20 percent last year compared to 2016,” Seng told participants. “With plans to maintain and even accelerate this growth, we developed the pound steak concept, one of many ideas we are working on to help grow global demand.”
The seminar also featured a tasting session, where USMEF served steak samples of U.S. beef striploin, as well as chuck flap, tri-tip and boneless short ribs – items not usually served as steaks in Japan.
Following the seminar, media outlets throughout Japan published articles on the U.S. beef pound steak campaign. A “My Pound Steak” Instagram campaign encouraged users to post photos of U.S. beef pound steak from their home dinner tables with hashtags #americanbeef or #mypoundsteak.
A special website was also set up for customers to post and view photos.