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USMEF-Japan Partners with AEON on Recovery Phase

Published: Jun 03, 2011
While continuing its relief efforts to aid the tens of thousands of Japanese citizens displaced in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, USMEF also is focusing resources on the second phase – the recovery of the Japanese economy.
In the last week of May, USMEF partnered with Japanese retail giant AEON Group to conduct an “American Fair” at AEON’s 1,550 stores throughout Japan. While the four-day event included a range of American agricultural products, chilled U.S. pork, U.S. beef and U.S. processed meat were featured promotions.

“As Japan learned after the Kobe earthquake of 1995, it’s vital to quickly follow the emergency relief efforts with programs to stimulate spending and consumption,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.
“Consumers in Japan naturally tend to be cautious, particularly after a disaster of this magnitude,” Seng added. “It is important to have consumers resume their normal lifestyles to generate the income and tax revenue that will be critical for recovery and reconstruction, and we believe that USMEF’s relationships with key retailers like AEON can help provide some of that impetus.”

AEON actively promoted a number of chilled U.S. pork items, including the loin, belly, tenderloin, back rib and jowl meat. It also introduced recipes for U.S. pork “Gotochi-gourmet” (popular pork dishes from the United States) in order to feature a variety of U.S. pork cooking styles ranging from pulled pork and back ribs to the Iowa Chop.

On the beef side, AEON featured the striploin to increase the sales of middle meat, and also featured underutilized cuts such as the shoulder clod, which USMEF-Tokyo has been promoting to AEON buyers for some time.

“Given the influence of AEON, we believe that if they sell and feature underutilized cuts, it will encourage other retail chains to do the same,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan senior marketing director.

To support the promotion, USMEF supplied point-of-purchase materials, recipes and menu suggestions, tasting demonstrations and other materials. Funding for the promotion was provided through the Beef Checkoff, Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Ohio Soybean Council, the United Soybean Board and USDA’s Market Access Program.

AEON Group officials expect that the promotion will give a significant boost to the sales of both U.S. beef and pork: projecting that U.S. beef sales during the promotion period will increase four-fold over last year. For pork, AEON expects a 15 percent sales bump over last year.

USMEF and AEON conducted a special event May 28 at AEON’s Makuhari outlet in the Chiba Prefecture that featured the president of AEON Group; the president of AEON Retail; Geoffrey Wiggin, the U.S. embassy’s minister-counselor for agricultural affairs; and Steve Shnitzler, director of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office.

In his opening remarks, President Motoya Okada thanked USMEF for its support of the AEON American Fair and expressed his appreciation to the United States for its support after the March 11 earthquake.

“AEON would like to actively promote American agricultural products, which are safe and delicious,” said Okada.

Through the first quarter of 2011, U.S. pork exports to Japan are up 24 percent in volume and 23 percent in value versus the same period of 2010, reaching 121,414 metric tons (267.7 million pounds) valued at $453.3 million.

U.S. beef exports to Japan are up 73 percent in volume and 85 percent in value for the first quarter to 31,989 metric tons (70.5 million pounds) valued at $176.4 million.