Over the past month, USMEF’s Japan office returned to promoting U.S. red meat at major trade shows, with staff attending both the Supermarket Trade Show and Foodex Japan.
Both shows were held in metropolitan Tokyo and featured COVID safety restrictions and limited attendance.
The Supermarket Trade Show, Japan’s leading international trade show targeting supermarket buyers and food retailers, was held just before COVID shut down public events in Japan in 2020. That show attracted more than 80,000 visitors. This year’s show took place in mid-February with a much smaller audience. Funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the National Pork Board, USMEF’s participation in 2021 included a booth where three USMEF member packers displayed their products and answered questions about U.S. pork and beef.
To reach potential customers not attending the show, USMEF live streamed the activity. A brief video from the live stream can be seen here.
Among new USMEF programs promoted at the booth was the “Camping with U.S. Pork Barbecue.” As a result of social distancing requirements during COVID, camping has become popular among Japanese consumers. USMEF recognized the trend as an opportunity to promote U.S. pork barbecue for outdoor activities.
Earlier in March, USMEF participated in a Foodex show that took on a new look due to COVID. The 2020 Foodex show was canceled, so USMEF was eager to return to what is traditionally the largest food exhibition in the Asia-Pacific.
“Even though the audience was much smaller than usual, many customers and potential customers showed interest in U.S. red meat and stopped at the USMEF booth to meet with us and taste some of the samples we were giving out,” said Tatsuru Kasatani, USMEF senior marketing manager in Japan. “The thing about limited shows is that we can take much more time with individual customers to discuss and promote U.S. beef, pork and lamb.”
USMEF’s effort at Foodex was funded by MAP, the Beef Checkoff Program, the National Pork Board, state beef councils and state corn organizations.
During this year’s Foodex, USMEF offered tasting samples of U.S. beef chuck eye and short plate ground into hamburger patties, along with Italian beef sandwiches. U.S. pork tenderloin and pulled pork were also offered to show visitors.
Kasatani called the return of in-person promotions at trade shows “exciting” and is hopeful that shows scheduled for later this year – such as the popular Yakiniku Business Fair, which has been rescheduled from January to June – will allow for greater interaction.
“Japanese people prefer face-to-face communication,” he said. “USMEF in Japan has adapted quite well to promoting U.S. product online and through social media, but we are excited to get back to meeting traders and customers in person.”