In cooperation with the Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Kaliningrad, Russia, USMEF recently organized a first-of-its-kind U.S. beef master class in this uniquely positioned and strategically important region. Funding support for the event and associated activities was provided by the Texas Beef Council. Support for the master class was also provided by the national Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
Located between Poland and Lithuania on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad became Russian territory following World War II. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Kaliningrad became a Russian exclave surrounded by foreign nations. This geographic position makes transit of goods between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland challenging, which creates opportunities for foreign providers of food and other key products.
Seeing the opportunity to expand the presence of U.S. beef into an important new region, USMEF-Russia targeted hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) professionals in Kaliningrad. With about 500,000 residents in its main metropolitan area, Kaliningrad has a growing restaurant and hotel sector with a wide variety of culinary styles and menu concepts. The objective of the master class was to demonstrate the many ways in which U.S. beef can add quality and versatility to any menu.
“The Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Kaliningrad did a fantastic job promoting our master class among local HRI professionals, helping ensure that the event was well-attended,” said Yuri Barutkin, USMEF St. Petersburg manager. “More than 50 guest chefs and restaurant managers received a very thorough, hands-on demonstration of U.S. beef, making our first venture in Kaliningrad quite successful.”
To drive home the value U.S. beef can deliver to moderately priced menus, the master class focused on alternative U.S. beef cuts such as top sirloin, flank steak and top blade. The cutting and cooking demonstration was conducted by chef Kenneth Lindberg of Terrasa, one of Kaliningrad’s most highly regarded restaurants. Lindberg became very familiar with U.S. beef through trade missions sponsored by the Texas Beef Council and has since become an active and enthusiastic promoter of U.S. beef.
“When I have access to beef from Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States, I tend to choose U.S. beef because I consider it the best in the world,” Lindberg said.
Recognizing the logistical challenges Kaliningrad’s chefs and restaurant managers may face in obtaining U.S. beef, USMEF arranged to have several beef distributors from Moscow and St. Petersburg on hand for the master class event.
“Events like this will only be successful if we address the issue of availability,” Barutkin explained. “Having distributors present who are veterans at importing and delivering U.S. beef to key customers added an important dimension to the master class. Two of these distributors even offered proposals to participate in specific events in St. Petersburg and other regions of Russia.”
The promotion took the additional step of promoting U.S. beef to consumers. In cooperation with Terrasa, USMEF organized a “Tour of U.S. beef in Kaliningrad” which included a full week of menu specials showcasing U.S. beef. With the help of promotional support provided by the Texas Beef Council, Terrasa was fully booked for the opening day of the event.
“I cannot emphasize enough the important support we received from the Texas Beef Council for every aspect of this promotion,” Barutkin said. “There are many challenges and obstacles to overcome when USMEF holds its first major event in an entirely new territory, and we could not have asked for a better partner.”
Russia has stood out as one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. beef in 2012. Through May, exports to Russia were 24 percent ahead of last year’s record pace in terms of volume (32,307 metric tons or 71.2 million pounds) and 83 percent higher in value ($138.8 million). While Russia was once primarily a market for U.S. beef livers, muscle cuts made up 73 percent of this volume and 87 percent of the value.