Leaders from around the globe are gathering in Dallas this week for the 2018 World Meat Congress. Key international stakeholders and National Pork Board leadership and staff will engage in real-time discussions of issues affecting the international marketplace for pork and other commodities. The WMC is a biennial event — held in the United States for the first time in more than two decades — that brings together 700 of the world’s meat industry thought leaders.
The NPB is one of the title sponsors of the event and will leverage that sponsorship to showcase U.S. pork in a variety of ways, including at the opening reception and a pork-themed luncheon. Also, board members and producer-members of the Checkoff’s International Marketing Committee will network with key international stakeholders to share details about sustainability on today’s pig farms and to discuss emerging issues facing the industry.
“We’re excited to be here in Dallas talking about U.S. pork not as a commodity, but as a unique and special product with a story,” says Terry O’Neel, NPB president and a producer from Friend, Neb. “As an industry, we have harnessed our collective strength to elevate our position in international markets, which has led to a record-setting global demand for U.S. pork.”
The pork industry is not unique in its growing dependence on exports to deliver returns to pork producers. In the last 10 years, U.S. agriculture has grown rapidly, shifting from exporting relatively few products to becoming heavily reliant on consumers outside of the United States and their intention to demand and buy American-grown products.
“It is critical that the U.S. pork industry diversify its global market opportunities,” says Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing at the NPB. “No longer can we just be concerned with commodity volume. We proved this in 2017 when the top markets for U.S. pork included Mexico, Japan and China/Hong Kong. And although exports were down overall to China last year, U.S. pork variety meat exports set an all-time export record surpassing $1 billion in total value.”
At the WMC, U.S. pork industry leaders and pig farmers will have the opportunity to personally connect with world leaders, gaining invaluable insights that will continue the record-breaking pork export trajectory. Through speakers and networking opportunities, attendees will build relationships to elevate the Pork Checkoff’s international marketing efforts. The important contacts and conversations will aid in developing international marketing strategies designed to grow U.S. pork demand abroad.
As part of its sponsorship, the Pork Checkoff is sponsoring the keynote address by award-winning author and Forbes contributor Jeff Fromm, an expert on emerging consumer trends. Fromm, who has authored several books on reaching young consumers, says that food has moved from a mere menu item to a form of self-expression.
“Today’s young consumers are passionate about food; it is a ‘badge’ product,” Fromm says. “We used to express ourselves through clothing, but now it is food culture driven by the young consumer who can often afford to buy anything they wish.”
With both millennial and Generation-Z consumers (born 1996-2010) using food to curate their identity, the rules of food production and promotion are changing, with a focus moving from transparency to proof of performance.
“As an industry, food marketers must shift from ‘story telling’ about a product into ‘story living,’ or showing how the young consumer can integrate a product into their life,” Fromm adds. “For example, today’s Gen Z consumer literally has an empty spice cabinet and they look to food merchandisers to fill that gap through innovative, seasoned-product offerings. This delivers to the young consumer something they need and do not already have.”
The WMC continues through June 1, allowing time for producer-leaders in attendance to exchange ideas and share strategies to face challenges and overcome barriers to international marketing. Insights, such as those shared by Fromm and other speakers, will generate conversations that will lead to critical relationship building. The conference provides a historic opportunity to gather critical insights and showcase the superiority of U.S. pork production to key international customers.
“The Checkoff will work hard to ensure that U.S. pork is literally at the center of the plate and top of mind for each conference attendee,” O’Neel says. “The insights we gain here will help us to better target future international markets and better understand the global consumers’ unique preference with the goal to increase U.S. pork consumption around the world.”