Upscale Japanese retailer Queen’s Isetan is renowned for its selection of top-quality products. Recently, in a collaborative promotion with USMEF and sophisticated food and lifestyle magazine ELLE a table, it put U.S. beef tongue on center stage and found itself with an instant hit.Eager to expand its repertoire of beef items that are popular with consumers, Queen’s Isetan took advantage of the increased availability of U.S. beef tongue to feature it in a dish stewed with red wine alongside a recipe of U.S. beef tenderloin with vinegar-sautéed vegetables. The promotion was timed to coincide with distribution of an edition of ELLE a table that featured recipe cards highlighting both U.S. beef dishes. Cooking and sampling demonstrations at eight of the 18 retail outlets further boosted consumer interest.
Sales of both cuts skyrocketed as a result of the multi-phase promotion: thin-sliced tongue up nearly 138 percent, thick-sliced tongue up 645 percent, and steak-cut beef tenderloin up 417 percent. The surprising response prompted the retailer to say it would explore other promotional avenues including additional menu suggestions and displays.
Noting the absence of U.S. beef cuts from cattle over 20 months of age from the Japanese market for nearly 10 years, a Queen’s Isetan spokesman said: “there are many consumers who are not familiar with dishes featuring beef tongue, but after tasting it, they were surprised by its tastiness and tenderness.”
He added that after seeing the cooking demonstration and sampling the product, many consumers bought a package of the tongue for the day’s dinner and others for future use.
Each of the stores prominently displayed posters and banners highlighting the two U.S. beef dishes along with the ELLE a table recipe card. A newspaper insert promoting the sampling demonstrations also featured the two products, including the recipes.
“This was a great opportunity for us to enhance the image of U.S. beef as a high-quality product in collaboration with a well-known upscale retailer and a tie-in promotion with ELLE a table,” said Tazuko Hijikata, USMEF-Japan senior manager of consumer affairs. She noted that the promotion was particularly effective because the three-way partnership greatly reduced costs for USMEF’s participation. USMEF’s portion, an advertorial in the November issue of ELLE a table, was made possible with funding from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Through the first 10 months of 2013, exports of U.S. beef to Japan are up 51 percent in volume and 33 percent in value versus last year, reaching 201,946 metric tons (445.2 million pounds) valued at nearly $1.2 billion. Japan is the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef both in volume and value.