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Roast Pork Heating Up in Japan

Published: Aug 28, 2013
Last year, USMEF-Japan introduced thick-cut American pork to Japanese consumers accustomed to thin-sliced meat. This year, USMEF is taking the promotion to new heights, partnering with Japan’s largest recipe search engine and a celebrity chef who is bringing U.S. pork to the TV screen.

Celebrity chef Rika Yukimasa and thick-cut American pork are featured on the Cookpad website and Fuji TV

The campaign to bring thick-cut U.S. pork to mainstream Japanese cuisine got a lift in late 2012 as a number of major retailers, including the 1,500 outlets of the giant Aeon Group, adopted USMEF’s program for promoting thick-cut roast pork for year-end party menus.

This year, Cookpad, Japan’s largest recipe search engine with more than 20 million monthly viewers, is featuring an

Cookpad, Japan’s largest recipe search engine, is featuring an “American Pork: Roast Pork Site”

“Having a well-known chef and cooking instructor talking about American pork on a popular TV program gives thick-cut pork added credibility,” said Yamashoji. “The special point-of-sale materials show an image of Ms. Yukimasa with the phrase ‘as seen on TV’ to draw the consumers’ attention.”

The two-part pork promotion has broad-based industry support with financing from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the United Soybean Board, Kansas Soybean Commission, Nebraska Soybean Board and the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. The Pork Checkoff also contributed to the Fuji TV program.

Because thick-cut pork is new to Japanese consumers, USMEF is providing education on the product to distributors, retailers and sales personnel so that they can better assist consumers. USMEF has given cooking seminars at a number of retailers, including influential regional retailers Uny, Fuji and Izumi. It also is planning similar seminars for distributors including Nippon Meat Packers and Marudai Foods.

Retailers are reporting positive results from promotions this summer. Aeon, which sold 1,500 metric tons (3.3 million pounds) of U.S. pork, including thick cuts, during its June promotion, indicated that it liked the interest it is seeing from consumers and would continue the promotion regularly. Uny, the largest retailer in the Tokai area, conducted a similar promotion in July. While sales results are not yet available, Uny already has indicated that it intends to continue the promotion.

Through the first half of 2013, Japan remains the No. 1 value market and No. 2 volume market for U.S. pork with exports totaling 214,625 metric tons (473.2 million pounds) valued at $949 million.