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USMEF Builds Landmark Partnership in Japan

Published: Dec 14, 2011
The ancient proverb that says “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is an appropriate metaphor for the rebuilding of the U.S. beef export market in Japan. Once the mainstay of U.S. beef exports, buying 47.5 percent of American beef exports by value (in 2001), the Japanese market continues to grow step by step after slipping to near zero in the post-BSE era.
U.S. beef sales to Japan have taken giant steps in recent years, including a 34 percent spike in volume and 41 percent in value this year, but that progress has come through the rebuilding of relationships one by one with key retailers and foodservice outlets.

Another major step was taken this month when USMEF-Japan launched its first joint promotion with the Tokyu Group, which owns Japan’s third-largest railway company and operates the 100-store Tokyu regional supermarket chain as well as nine Tokyu department stores and 56 Tokyu hotels.

“The Tokyu Group companies are renowned for their high-end image and high-quality products/services,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan senior marketing director. “The fact that the Tokyu Group has agreed to begin selling U.S. beef enhances its image with Japanese consumers and is very helpful for increasing sales.”

The promotion began Dec. 1 and runs through Christmas. Buyers of U.S. beef qualify for a sweepstakes offering a variety of prizes, including a U.S. beef luncheon at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel, one of the finest hotels in Tokyo. U.S. Embassy staff in Tokyo will speak at the luncheon, underlining the importance of the event, which is funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.

“This is the first case of a department store selling U.S. beef and conducting a promotion since the resumption of U.S. beef sales in Japan,” said Yamashoji. “We fully expect that this announcement will have a positive impact on other department stores.”

Tokyu collaborated with USMEF-Tokyo to develop in-train ads to introduce the campaign and position U.S. beef. These ads, supporting the retail and hotel promotion, run on the Tokyu Railway Line, the second-largest train network in Japan with more than 2.3 million passengers per day.

U.S. beef exports to Japan through the first nine months of 2011 stand at 121,239 metric tons (267.3 million pounds) valued at $653.2 million, making it the fourth-largest volume market for American beef and third-largest value market.