Beef Roadshow Successful Launch for Market Development Efforts in China

CHINA - An initial and ambitious step toward developing demand for US beef in China was taken as the US Beef China Roadshow, a week-long series of events organized by USMEF, brought exporters and importers together in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. These activities were made possible through support from the Nebraska Beef Council.
calendar icon 11 October 2017
clock icon 5 minute read

The "roadshow" moniker was an appropriate choice, as USMEF staff and 17 member companies began the journey Monday, 25 September with a US beef showcase in Beijing, then traveled to Shanghai for a similar programme on Wednesday, 27 September.

By the end of the week, the contingent had moved to Guangzhou, where the roadshow concluded with a US beef overview, trade networking, product sampling and an American-style barbecue reception highlighting alternative cuts. More than 300 Chinese importers – buyers who were selected and screened by USMEF attended each of the three roadshow events.

"We started in the north, moved to central China and finally ended up in the south, allowing US companies to see and experience different regions of the country," explained Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China.

"At the same time, Chinese buyers from each stop were able to interact with US exporters. What this roadshow confirmed is that USMEF is in a unique position to facilitate meetings to assist US packers and other exporters, as well as help our partners in the Chinese trade in an effort to get more US beef into the country."

Each of the three roadshow stops featured member companies exhibiting US beef products. A simple opening ceremony in each location included a brief overview of the current US beef market, along with introductions by company representatives.

Each roadshow event was themed with a particular popular local beef dining concept, including hot pot, Korean barbecue and western steakhouse. Cutting demonstrations and tastings were held throughout each event by USMEF’s technical consultant.

"The roadshow idea grew out of the need to introduce American companies to the Chinese market, as well as to provide Chinese distributors, retailers, restaurateurs and chefs an opportunity to handle and taste US beef, with a goal of building on the momentum that started when China reopened to US beef earlier this year," said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific.

"In each of the three cities, there was obvious excitement on both sides, with importers lining up to meet USMEF’s exporter members. We’ve said that developing the China market will take time, but we are very pleased with the reception we received this week. Our members who took part were excited about what they saw and walked away with serious commercial interest."

"We started US beef sales in August, with the understanding that it will take time to convince our Chinese customers and consumers to move to US beef, and our goal is to let them appreciate the difference between US beef and beef from other countries,” said Peter Cho, purchasing manager for Topping Cuisine International (TCI), a major food importer, distributor, meat processor and restaurant chain operator based in Shanghai.

"There is a learning curve, and higher pricing is a challenge. But we feel that as time goes by and people are able to experience US beef’s quality, demand for it will grow."

Mr Cho added that the success of US beef in China will require a consistent – and persistent – approach.

"I believe as demand expands, the US beef industry will eventually produce more beef for the market. As a result, prices should come down," Mr Cho said.

US exporters participating in the roadshow varied from well-established players to new companies hoping to capitalize on China’s reopening to US beef.

John Zhong, CEO of Better Protein, Inc., a Des Moines–based operation made up of family farm cooperatives across the Midwest, said his company was able to collect a solid list of contacts at each stop that included not only Chinese importers, but also foodservice and retail professionals.

"Our next step is to go back home to the US and to follow up with our roadshow contacts to learn more about their product needs. We’ll touch base and start working together to create solutions and strategies for the market and I hope to begin supplying U.S. beef to China soon."

Other US exporters agreed that learning about the needs of potential customers was extremely valuable.

"We really looked forward to the roadshow because it would allow us to get a practical education on China and learn what we need to do to be successful here," said Michael Strohecker, CEO of AmeriRanch, a California-based trading company that partners with family cattle ranches in Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

"The week went almost exactly as we hoped when it was proposed. We were able to meet with several potential customers and learn what consumers here are interested in. USMEF did a tremendous job of putting both sides together in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. You could see the differences in each city and region, but you could also see the things that are common throughout China."

Steve Summers, sales manager for One World Beef, also noted that each stop on the roadshow provided a different perspective on the overall market.

"You could feel the energy for US beef, and I was able to meet several top-notch importers at each stop – and each had their own story and own approach to their business," said Mr Summers.

"That’s the real advantage to seeing different parts of China and meeting different kinds of buyers. Our job now is to try to match our US beef products with each of those buyers to help fit their needs."

Between roadshow events, USMEF led representatives of member companies on visits to Chinese retailers, cold storage facilities and restaurants serving US beef in each city.

Bernard Rigal, managing director of sales for Colorado-based Platte Valley Food Group, called the roadshow an invaluable experience.

"How else, other than through USMEF’s efforts to put this together for members, would we get to accomplish all of these things in one week?" asked Mr Rigal.

"It was truly great to see the tremendous opportunity China offers for US beef, with real potential for endless growth. I was able to meet potential customers that were selected by USMEF, so we were able to talk business and discuss future business."

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