Your national Beef Checkoff Program: 25 years and counting
Part 6: Foreign marketing builds a better future for beef
In September 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of the U.S. at about 312 million, with one birth occurring about every seven seconds, and one death occurring every 13 seconds or so. Add to that the effect of immigration, and you get a net gain of one person every 12 seconds.
Think about that: One new person added to the American roster every 12 seconds. When you start multiplying that out, it’s pretty mind-boggling—at least until you think about the world population. Currently at about 6.96 billion, the global population doubled from about 3 billion in 1959 to about 6 billion in 1999 and is projected to surpass 7 billion in 2012, just as we approach a population of about 319 million here in the U.S.
And while the U.S. is the third most populated country behind China and India—and is expected to remain at that rank as far out as 2050 when we reach a population of more about 422.5 million—it pales in comparison to the entire world. In fact, in the big picture, the U.S. population represents just 4.5 percent of the global population.
OK, so outside of our borders are about 22 times as many hungry mouths to feed as there are inside our borders. Even with the rate of growth of the global population expected to slow steadily during the next 40 years, our planet is expected to host 9 billion consumers by 2044. And if you’re in the food business—raising cattle, for example—the thought of the accompanying growth in potential customers has to ring some pretty substantial bells of opportunity.
As opportunities for beef trade with developing coun tries were emerging in earnest, your national Beef Checkoff Program began focusing some of its investments in the area of “foreign marketing” in the mid-1990s. Today, the checkoff is promoting U.S. beef in more than 80 of the 228 countries across the globe, and working toward expanding that wherever opportunity knocks.
The population-based scenario we’re presenting in this small space simplifies a much more complex globalmarket picture, of course, but when you look at the prospects for consumer demand for your beef—be it next month, next year, or decades down the road—it follows that the domestic market for your product will max out far sooner than the global market. Keep in mind, of course, that demand for your end product grows based not solely on the amount you can sell, but at what price points it moves. In the U.S., for example, we use all the beef we produce, one way or another. That includes domestic sales and exported cattle, beef and beef products. Put simply, though, when demand is strong— when people want your product badly enough to pay more for it—that improves the value of your animals back on your farm or ranch.
When it comes to building demand, the importance of constantly upgrading the value of U.S. beef and beef products has been a recurring theme throughout this series, and that cannot be overemphasized.
With that in mind, cattle producers have come to understand the importance of maintaining a strong reputation for U.S. beef abroad in an effort to keep those global opportunities within reach. Accordingly, your Beef Checkoff Program started an integrated foreign-marketing program in the mid- 1990s and now is investing about $6 million a year toward the effort.
In Part 5 we talked about the role of “issues management” in the before- and aftermath of the first BSE case in the U.S. on Dec. 23, 2003. That topic is just as pertinent and critical as we talk about international marketing of U.S. beef, because virtually everything that the checkoff issues-management team accomplished domestically post-BSE, its foreign-marketing team was tackling on a global basis. In fact, however, the international challenges were far greater:
Whereas domestic demand in, say, Germany, dropped by two-thirds virtually overnight with the announcement of BSE in that country, the domestic market in the U.S. remained open and available nonstop following Dec. 23, 2003.
Meanwhile, our export markets virtually disappeared overnight. So it was about preservation in the domestic market but total and complete re-establishment— starting from scratch—beyond our borders, which required intense and countryspecific issues management.
Further, the global market is not only much bigger than the domestic market but is also more complex to navigate because of the sheer number of consumers and the geographic expanses across which those consumers are diffused. The marketing efforts that the checkoff has supported throughout the post-BSE recovery process don’t include direct participation in the exhaustive trade and policy negotiations that followed, because the checkoff cannot and does not invest in activity to influence policy decisions. At the same time, however, checkoff marketing efforts abroad included technical support of those negotiations and clearly depended on those trade efforts to gain access to as many as possible of the markets that hold potential for germinating and enriching U.S. beef demand. A global market The Beef Promotion & Research Act, under which the national checkoff program operates, identifies the “foreign marketing” budget/program component as promotion, research, consumer information and industry information conducted in foreign markets. This includes checkoff-funded market development and promotional programs worldwide.
As virtually everyone associated with this industry for more than a few days probably is aware, beef exports nosedived after Dec. 23, 2003, upon the immediate closure of virtually all major U.S. export markets. As managed by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF)—the checkoff’s sole foreign-marketing contractor—money from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and state beef councils budgets invested to recover and maintain these markets is leveraged to double strength by matching funds that US- MEF receives from other checkoff programs, as well as USDA’s Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs.
Not only has that combined funding help pave the way through the slow-buteffective recovery from BSE, but it continues to develop new markets for U.S. beef along the way. And, in spite of continuing export barriers, including the 20-month age limit in Japan, product restrictions in Hong Kong and Mexico, the impasse over residues in Taiwan, and the total lack of access to China, the checkoff has helped continuously build U.S. beef exports back to pre-BSE highs—and beyond.
Key program accomplishments
So how does the checkoff help make this happen? As each market develops, the checkoff funds promotional and educational activities along the entire distribution chain—from importers/distributors to foodservice and retail operators, and even to targeted consumers, in limited cases— to achieve the checkoff’s strategic priorities.
The activities conducted in support of these priorities are similar in all markets, but the implementation and specific messages delivered through them are tailored to fit target audiences in each market and segment: Market development activities include things like contacting buyers and sellers about the commitment of the U.S. industry; participating in trade shows; activating trade teams to share important information and techniques with hotel, restaurant, institutional and retail companies; conducting seminars and training sessions that share key messages about U.S. beef with target audiences; communicating through advertising and public relations to create and maintain a positive image for U.S. beef; and promotions that encourage new first-time buyers of U.S. beef.
Market access activities include things like issues monitoring, analysis and reporting; communication of beef safety measures and systems to government and external audiences; and providing technical support for meeting export specifications, certification procedures, safety inspection measures and the like.
Let’s look at a few of the checkoff-funded foreign-marketing program successes worth celebrating:
• The Beef Checkoff Program helped penetrate critical Asian markets, including Japan and South Korea, building consumer trust in U.S. beef and developing business relationships within the meat industry that were necessary to grow our exports to those countries. The checkoff was especially essential in helping rebuild our presence in these markets after the BSE-related market closures.
• When U.S. beef was absent from key markets due to BSE, the checkoff helped extend reach to new markets, diversifying the presence of U.S. beef around the world. The results are clear: At one time, Japan and South Korea accounted for more than 60 percent of the value of our beef exports. Today, they make up about 30 percent. And this diversity is not only wise, but absolutely necessary to avoid the U.S. beef industry becoming overly susceptible to any future individual market closures or a downturn in the economy of one of our trading partners.
• Through checkoff-funded programs, the U.S. beef industry has developed markets for variety meat, offal and muscle cuts that are underutilized within our borders, but hold desire elsewhere. The Middle East, Russia, Latin America and Southeast Asia are just a few examples of markets that deliver excellent premiums on these types of products, compared to the relatively low-to-no dollar value they attract in the domestic market. This adds tremendous value to the beef carcass, and ensures U.S. producers are paid more for every animal they market. • As it is here at home, developing specific beef cuts that work well for trends in international cuisine is critical to satisfying the diverse palettes of consumers across the globe—be it in Asia, Latin America or other regions of the world. If we don’t understand what our foreign customers want, and respond directly and effectively to those tastes, then we will not have a lasting market for our product. This is another area where the checkoff’s help, in funding full-time professionals on the ground in key global markets, is beneficial to growth of our U.S. beef industry. Through contracting of USMEF international staff, the checkoff supports individuals who have extensive experience with the host country’s food and meat industry and, thus, are able to provide an insider’s perspective on the tastes and buying habits of the everyday consumer in that country or region.
The list of international marketing accomplishments goes on and on, covering all of the same channels as does our list of domestic checkoff achievements, including promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information. Looking ahead, we still have plenty of room for growth in mainstay markets like Japan and Korea; we’ve just begun to scratch the surface in Europe; and if we can gain access to China, that’s a market that obviously holds huge potential for U.S. beef.
So, even from the short list of accomplishments you’ve seen here, it’s no wonder that producers who oversee your checkoff investments have made foreign-marketing programs a mainstay of the national Beef Checkoff Program. The idea is to move the roster of potential beef consumers from the millions to the billions, and you just can’t hate that. — WLJ