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COUNTRY-THEMED BOOTH BOOSTS BEEF IN JAPAN

Beef from the United States was a big attraction at the Country Gold Music Festival in Kumamoto, Japan Oct. 15, as the Texas Beef Council (TBC) sponsored a country-themed booth to reintroduce Japanese consumers to the product.

The promotion was coordinated by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), and helped support the organization's “We Care” campaign, which is working to reassure Japanese consumers of the safety and wholesomeness of U.S. beef.

More than 20,000 Japanese consumers attended the music festival and had the opportunity to enjoy U.S. beef at a Texas Roadhouse Restaurant-themed booth, complete with barbecue pit, chuck wagon and Texas-style decorations. The booth proved to be one of the most popular sites at the event – and demonstrated that U.S. beef is still popular with many Japanese, according to Greg Hanes, USMEF Japan director.

“Most of the people were excited to have American beef again,” said Hanes. “They admitted they had forgotten how good it is. Several said American beef at Country Gold was the best.”

Originally scheduled to begin selling meals at 10 a.m., staff opened the booth at 9:30 a.m. due to the line of people wanting to purchase the food. The meal consisted of boneless U.S. rib eye roll rubbed with special spices from Texas, baked beans and bread. There was a steady stream of customers throughout the day, Hanes said, with nearly 700 servings sold.

Hanes said one consumer, who tried U.S. beef for the first time, said it was “very tasty and will buy American beef from now on.”

Richard Wortham, TBC executive vice president, said this kind of program is one key to success in a market that has great potential for U.S. beef producers. “The industry knows the importance of the Japanese market,” he said. “Being able to participate in this event is a win-win situation for U.S. cattlemen and Japanese consumers.”

Wortham was part of a team that attended the Country Gold Music Festival in the early 1990s, and said the grills and smoker used for this year's event were ones supplied by TBC that had been used at that time. He added that it's crucial to stand together as U.S. producers in assuring the Japanese people of the value of U.S. beef.

“The TBC has supported USMEF efforts for more than 18 years, and through sponsorship of these types of events we're able to show the Japanese consumers that we are committed to providing a safe and wholesome beef product,” said Wortham.

The U.S. beef booth had seating for about 80 people and also featured computers that allowed children and their parents to play U.S. beef-related games, as well as a ring toss and live horses on which the children could sit.

All proceeds from the TBC-USMEF beef booth will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, reinforcing USMEF “We care” efforts to show the U.S. commitment to being good citizens and friends of Japan.

Among the other objectives of the “We Care” campaign is to create positive attitudes and positive peer pressure, encouraging Japanese consumers to purchase U.S. beef. In addition to barbecues, it includes newspaper ads, a Web site, a U.S. beef industry virtual tour and media events.

The multi-faceted “We Care” campaign also contains an element directed at the Japanese retail and foodservice trades. It is intended to convince buyers that the product is safe and there is little chance for problems, there is consumer demand and, therefore, an opportunity for profit. The strategy is supported by buyer teams, a “beef caravan” that visits Japanese cities, a trade version of the virtual tour, a book that takes a closer look at approved U.S. packers, retail and hotel/restaurant promotions and point-of-sale materials.

The Country Gold Music Festival is the largest outdoor concert in Japan. It attracts consumers who enjoy Western U.S. country culture, including Western wear and country music.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, lamb, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.

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