When it comes to Internet connectivity, personal computer usage and access to smart phones, South Korea is right at the top of the list. Korean consumers use social networking services more than most of their global peers to send and receive information, and tend to trust that information more than information from other channels.
That high degree of digital connectivity is helping guide USMEF-Korea’s initiatives on behalf of the U.S. beef and pork industries as it works to develop a positive image among young, Internet-savvy professionals.
“More than 93 percent of Koreans in their 20s own a smartphone, and almost that same percentage report that they use the Internet to get the information they need to make decisions, including what products to trust and what to buy,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director.
The rapid movement of Korean consumers – particularly younger ones – into the digital age is leading companies to target those consumers differently.
“We have been active with leading food bloggers who have a loyal following among young adults,” said Yang. “At the same time, we recently launched a Facebook page, American Meat Story, that engages with consumers in a setting they find comfortable and trustworthy.”
Since American Meat Story’s launch earlier this summer, USMEF-Korea has held “It is U.S. Beef Day” and “It is U.S. Pork Day” events on Facebook to draw attention, providing samples of pork butt, beef chuck eye roll, pork belly and boneless beef chuck short ribs as rewards in online contests to encourage sampling and word-of-mouth conversation. Funding for American Meat Story has been provided through the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), Beef Checkoff Program and Pork Checkoff.
After just over a month, fans of USMEF’s American Meat Story site have ballooned from 353 in the early going to more than 4,700, with more than 930 comments on the beef and pork promotions – all of them positive.
Visitors to American Meat Story also receive information on current restaurant promotions featuring U.S. red meat as well as retail sales information to encourage interested website fans to patronize merchants who feature U.S. products.
“Korea is a very challenging environment,” said Yang. “After the street protests against American beef several years ago, it has been a continuous effort to rebuild consumers’ confidence in U.S. beef. And there is fierce loyalty to domestic product, both for beef and pork.”
Yang and her team are working through a variety of channels to change those perceptions. In addition to traditional retail partnerships that encourage shoppers to sample products at the point of purchase, USMEF-Korea is bringing teams of journalists to the U.S. to visit American producers and see for themselves how U.S. livestock – as well as the wholesome grains and oilseeds that nourish them – are grown and cared for.
“This fall we are bringing two beef-focused teams to the U.S. – one group of mainstream journalists from lifestyle and women’s magazines, and a second group of younger bloggers,” said Yang. “Both will meet with American ranchers to give their readers in Korea a view into the American West and how wholesome and natural the environment is for raising the cattle that produce U.S. beef. And they will get an education on U.S. beef production and the opportunity to experience U.S. beef in a variety of settings, including a ranch barbecue.”
Through the first half of 2013, an oversupply of domestic protein in Korea has created a challenging environment for imported red meat products, but the country remains the No. 5 market for both U.S. pork and beef, purchasing 58,924 metric tons (129.9 million pounds) of pork valued at $159.5 million and 51,009 metric tons (112.5 million pounds) of beef valued at $270.6 million.