Demonstrating the quality, taste and safety of U.S. processed pork, USMEF recently led a team of Korean buyers on visits to packing plants and sausage making facilities in the Midwest. The trip, which also included a USMEF pork foodservice seminar and a stop at the National Restaurant Association Show, was funded by the National Pork Board.
The goal of organizing the processed pork buyers team was to introduce foodservice decision makers from South Korea to a variety of U.S. processed pork products and ultimately expand the market. Team members consisted of purchasing managers, product developers and executives from some of Korea’s largest food and hotel chains.
“These professionals were able to broaden their overall understanding of processed pork in America – from production to the various products that are available – and learn about trends that can be applied back home at their businesses,” says Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea. “As part of the busy itinerary we built for them, team members also explored retail stores and restaurants to pick up on new trends. What we heard from them after this visit is that the U.S. processed pork market is much more developed than it is in Korea, which was a great inspiration for them.”
Johnsonville, OSI/Rose Packing Co. and Hormel Foods hosted the team for facility tours, allowing them to witness how U.S. processed pork products are made. At its facility in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., Johnsonville staff led a sausage plant tour and introduced the company’s consumer and foodservice products. At the Chicago headquarters of OSI/Rose Packing – a supplier to chains such as McDonald’s and producer of many custom-made processed pork products – the Korean team learned about the company’s emphasis on developing and producing consistent products to meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
The visit to Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn., included a look at the production process for sausages, canned ham, bacon and other pork products. After the tour, Hormel prepared a tasting session featuring a variety of processed pork products, ranging from sausages and bacon to pork ribs and charcuterie. Hormel staff members explained the value of a high-quality product line that is fast and easy to use in the restaurant industry.
Yang said tours of processed pork plants increased the team’s confidence in the U.S. food safety system.
“With the processed meat market getting bigger and bigger in Korea, the food safety aspect of our program meant a lot,” she says. “Confidence in this area will help with the expansion of the market.”
The USMEF processed pork seminar was held at the Publican restaurant in Chicago. It consisted of a pork cutting demonstration, an explanation of charcuterie, a presentation of market trends and samples of several U.S. pork products.
At the NRA Show, one of the world’s top food exhibitions, the team visited the display booths of several USMEF members, tasting a variety of meat products and meeting with representatives of each company.
Because of lifestyle changes and a growing desire for convenience food, demand for processed meat has increased in Korea in recent years. Minimum wage increases and a 52-hour work system have changed the foodservice industry and USMEF has identified opportunities for pre-cooked bacon, pulled pork, smoked pork items and sausages.
Processed pork products imported from the U.S. have the largest market share, says Yang, who noted that U.S. pork is also on the rise as the raw material in Korean-made processed pork products.
“There is a growing interest by Korean consumers in processed meat items that are pre-cooked and can be served easily and quickly,” Yang says. “In response to this trend, USMEF has introduced and promoted a wider range of U.S. processed pork items, providing both the food service industry and consumers with up-to-date information and new ideas for products that fit into this convenience trend.”