Thousands of Taiwanese consumers sampled U.S. pork and learned about its versatility in an innovative USMEF pop-up store campaign conducted in Taipei. The activity, funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the National Pork Board, took place over the course of several days at the Nangang City Link Mall, one of the busiest transit terminals in the Taipei metropolitan area.
U.S. pork tastings, interactive contests and educational brochures were elements of the pop-up store, which was built to resemble a farmyard. The scene attracted many Instagram and other social media users whose posts resulted in more than 60,000 views across various platforms.
According to Davis Wu, USMEF director in Taiwan, the goal was to showcase U.S. pork and position it to meet significant challenges in the market. The government’s zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine, an abundant supply of domestic pork and an overall lack of awareness of U.S. pork’s attributes are the biggest obstacles.
“Because most of the U.S. pork imported into Taiwan is sold directly to food processors, it is difficult for consumers to identify the origin of the product they are purchasing and eating,” said Wu. “As a result, Taiwanese consumers are not aware of the high quality and excellent taste of U.S. pork. But Taiwan has great potential as a pork market because pork accounts for nearly half of total red meat consumption in the country.”
Exports of U.S. pork muscle cuts to Taiwan have increased significantly in 2019. Through October, exports were 13% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (11,675 metric tons) and up 25% in value to $29.1 million. Further expanding these numbers requires information sharing and image building, Wu said.
An opening ceremony hosted by USMEF at the U.S. pork pop-up store featured several special guests, including Lucas Blaustein, deputy chief of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Office of Agricultural Affairs in Taipei, and Cleo Fu, agricultural marketing specialist for the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO). Both spoke of the value of U.S. pork and the potential of the Taiwanese market.
Throughout the campaign, U.S. pork ribs were displayed and sold at the pop-up store. Tasting sessions were arranged at peak hours featuring U.S. pork ribs – an iconic American pork dish in Taiwan. USMEF also shared information with visitors, emphasizing the corn-fed tenderness that sets U.S. pork apart from competitors’ products. A display freezer was placed next to the tasting counter, enabling customers to make purchases after tasting the product.
To demonstrate the versatility of U.S. pork, a “bian-dang” (lunch box) made with U.S. pork ribs was sold at lunchtime on weekdays. The bian-dang, a packaged single-portion takeout meal that typically consists of either rice or noodles, meat and side dishes, is a popular meal for students, office workers, tourists or anyone who needs to pick up a quick meal in Taiwan. The pork ribs in the bian-dang were prepared in different styles of cuisines, such as southeast Asian curry rice, Korean bibimbap and Okinawan taco rice.
Encouraging visitors to stay longer at the pop-up store and increase their engagement in the event, an augmented reality (AR) video game was installed at the USMEF location. In the game, corn-fed pork and a clean-feeding environment were highlighted, educating Taiwanese consumers about U.S. pork production.
“Throughout the campaign, many people revealed they were not aware that U.S. was pork available in the Taiwanese market, and those who did know were not aware of how U.S. pork is produced,” Wu noted. “With the positive feedback we received, we are considering pop-up stores for future pork promotions and encouraging more U.S. pork importers to participate in this kind of event.”