Ito Yokado Trades Aussie Beef Middle Meats for High-Quality U.S. Products
As prices for beef middle meats in the U.S. have stalled with the economy, USMEF is actively working in the United States’ highest value beef export market to develop an appetite for these premium cuts and further diversify the audience for beef exports.One of Japan’s leading supermarket chains, Ito Yokado, brought the message of the quality and value of U.S. beef middle meats to consumers last week in a special promotion coordinated with USMEF. This was a significant shift for Ito Yokado, which previously had focused on Australian middle meats at its 174 store locations throughout Japan, but recently agreed to shift all of its middle meat purchases to U.S. product. “This was an important promotion for several reasons,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president of global marketing. “First, this was a purchasing shift by Ito Yokado from Australian product to U.S. middle meats. That is a tribute to both the quality of U.S. beef and the persistence of the USMEF-Japan team to pursue these negotiations to a conclusion after years of effort. “Second, this is an opportunity to help develop Japanese consumers’ interest in U.S. middle meats, particularly at a time when prices in the U.S. are stagnant or slumping,” he said. “If USMEF and Ito Yokado can cultivate an appetite for beef middle meats in Japan, that will open up new trade options and help us sustain both the volume and value of American beef exports.” The Ito Yokado promotion, funded with support from the Beef Checkoff Program, the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and corn checkoff funds from several states, was an extension of a month-long American Fair promotion that highlighted a broader range of food products from the United States. Ito Yokado staffed its stores with demonstrators to distribute samples of U.S. strip loins, and USMEF supported the promotion by training the demonstrators on proper cooking techniques, information on the quality and safety of U.S. beef, and useful sales skills. USMEF-Japan has developed its own training program for store demonstrators, and research has shown that a properly trained demonstrator will produce, on average, 50.8 percent higher sales than the average demonstrator. Management of Ito Yokado reports very positive consumer reactions, primarily focused on their appreciation of – and surprise at – both the taste and tenderness of U.S. beef strip loins. While Ito Yokado does not release sales results from its promotions, USMEF staff indicated that management was very pleased with the results of the promotion and is planning other similar activities in the future. Exports of U.S. beef to Japan are up 50 percent in volume and 54 percent in value for the first six months of 2011 versus last year, reaching 77,298 metric tons (170.4 million pounds) valued at $416.3 million.