USMEF-Korea Exposes Bloggers to International Cuisine
Since South Korean food bloggers were treated to a four-part international cuisine experience in 2011, their positive reports on the use of U.S. beef have reached between 240,000 and 1.2 million Korean blog readers. The innovative blogger outreach program developed by USMEF-Korea, which concluded with a special December activity, was funded with support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) as well as the Beef Checkoff. The initiative involved engaging with eight Korean bloggers who specialize in beef to expose them to creative uses of U.S. beef in a wide variety of applications. “Bloggers create great word-of-mouth messaging among consumers in Korea,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director. “This is a highly valued mode of communication as consumers trust the opinion of their peers when making buying decisions. These bloggers, who each reach anywhere from 2,000 readers to more than 10,000 readers per day, are an effective way to build a positive image of U.S. beef.” “I thought U.S. beef might not be delicious or safe before I actually tried it. Now I changed my view. It’s fresh and delicious,” said one blogger. The Diverse Cuisines activity was an intensive program that required each blogger to complete four missions and then write about each step in the process. “Diverse Cuisines Made with U.S. Meat” was the theme of the USMEF-Korea program in 2011 that not only had bloggers cook with U.S. beef, but also brought them to restaurants featuring the products, had them create their own recipes and offer samples through their blogs. The year-end program was the third activity that USMEF-Korea developed specifically for bloggers, with each delivering progressively larger results.The first step was the launching of the experimental blogger group, which included a cooking class. In the second step, the “taste hunters” visited a restaurant that served U.S. beef. The third mission involved cooking with the products at home, recreating recipes that were presented at the cooking class. The final mission was for each blogger to conduct a free U.S. beef sampling event through their blog. USMEF-Korea supported the sampling with U.S. beef chuck eye roll. The program generated broad coverage by the bloggers and the network of other bloggers who follow them. The participating bloggers posted a collective 120 stories about the events, with many picked up by additional influential bloggers. At the lowest estimated blog readership level, the USMEF program reached in excess of 240,000 Korean consumers and may have topped 1.2 million. In 2011, a group of beef bloggers were led by Korean cuisine cooking instructor Mi Kyung Jung who introduced them to lettuce-wrapped boneless short ribs, barbecued bulgogi with tomato salad, braised short rib with chestnut and vegetables, and Korean-style beef consommé. The end-of-year program for beef, led by Italian cuisine instructor Joo Hee Park, featured beef tagliata with balsamic sauce and arugula. “This was a meaningful chance to change consumer biases against U.S. meat safety and quality issues,” reported one blogger. “I learned that U.S. meat processors take their roles seriously in maintaining safe food-handling practices.” U.S. beef exports to Korea over the same period reached 129,810 metric tons (286.2 million pounds) valued at $574.9 million, increases of 43 percent in volume at 36 percent in value versus 2010.