To demonstrate the unique flavor of U.S. lamb and encourage consumers in Taiwan to incorporate more of it in their meal plans, USMEF held a series of tasting luncheons with the theme “Dig into the Hidden Gem in Taiwan.” Three tastings, funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the American Lamb Board, were held at the Grand Mayfull Hotel in Taipei and featured dishes from local Taiwanese, Japanese and Italian restaurants.
“Our goal was to establish U.S. lamb cuts as versatile and high-quality, so we worked with chefs at the Grand Mayfull Hotel who are skilled in different cuisines yet are able to bring out the well-rounded and delicate traits of U.S. lamb,” explained Davis Wu, USMEF director in Taiwan. “We also set up displays of U.S. lamb cuts and examples of meals from each restaurant, so the media and food industry leaders could get a better understanding of U.S. lamb.”
Ten to 15 journalists were in attendance at each luncheon, resulting in extensive coverage of U.S. lamb in Taiwanese newspapers, social media posts and television news. An example is this report on a Taipei broadcast. During the luncheons, chefs performed cooking demonstrations and explained the attributes that make U.S. lamb different from competitors.
“We wanted to highlight the production environment and feeding methods used by the U.S. lamb industry, so the display used a ‘Mini Farm’ theme,” said Wu. “Along with various U.S. lamb cuts, we also displayed the feed used to raise U.S. lamb, such as soybeans, corn and hay. We also presented an introductory video created by the American Lamb Board to give attendees a clear overview of the U.S. lamb industry.”
The U.S. lamb dishes prepared and served were carefully selected for each category:
Japanese: Teppanyaki lamb chop with four varieties of seasoning (truffle salt, Hawaiian mineral salt, wasabi and pepper salt and pepper) and crispy garlic slices and shichimi lamb fried rice.
Taiwanese: Pan-fried lamb chop with black pepper sauce and lamb fingers with cumin and sweet chili.
Italian: Dual-flavored lamb chops (Roman rosemary and garlic lamb chop and Milanese deep-fried lamb chop) with cannelloni roll with sous-vide lamb filling.
Along with traditional media coverage of the luncheons, a large number of Facebook and Instagram posts lauded the flavor and texture of U.S. lamb.
“Overall, the media’s perspective was that U.S. lamb has huge potential in theTaiwanese market,” said Wu. “One of the attendees, who has nearly 96,000 followers on Facebook, live-streamed a discussion about the tastings and her impressions of U.S. lamb. She also demonstrated how she cooked U.S. lamb at home in a way that was inspired by one of the chefs at the tastings.”
A video of that live-streamed discussion is online.
Wu reported that increased attention created by the tasting luncheons led Mayfull to highlight U.S. lamb in its brick-and-mortar supermarkets as well as its rapidly expanding online marketplace.
USMEF’s efforts to grow demand for U.S. lamb in Taiwan are focused on re-educating consumers about the product, which was absent from the market for 13 years. In 2017, USMEF showcased U.S. lamb products to retailers and foodservice operators at the Taipei International Food Show – the beginning of a U.S. lamb re-introduction effort.
Annual per capita consumption of lamb in Taiwan is about 2.2 pounds, Wu noted. Most of the country’s lamb is imported from Australia and New Zealand.
“Consumers in Taiwan have limited interest in lamb because they are accustomed to Australia and New Zealand lamb,” said Wu. “But USMEF is working to put U.S. lamb in front of consumers to make them aware that U.S. lamb has better flavor and superior qualities. U.S. lamb had little exposure for more than a decade, so it takes time to build up the market and establish a positive image.”