Despite temporary interruptions in U.S. pork production and significant restrictions on the Central American foodservice sector, U.S. pork exports to the region still achieved growth in the first half of the year. Exports to mainstay market Honduras jumped 13% year-over-year to more than $34 million, and larger shipments to Nicaragua and El Salvador also helped push regionwide exports 5% higher to $112.3 million.
The region's restaurant sector largely closed down in March, with the exception of home delivery services, and restaurants that recently reopened still face occupancy limits. Lucia Ruano, U.S. Meat Export Federation representative in Central American and the Dominican Republic explains that this put an emphasis on new consumer marketing campaigns aimed at restaurant meals ordered online and preparation of more U.S. pork meals at home
"With the pandemic all the restaurants were forced to stop their activities in the physical space and shifted to home delivery service exclusively in order to survive, so the industry has seen the need to strengthen the online channel," Ruano says. "Many consumers are moving to ecommerce platforms and also, many consumers want to recreate the culinary experiences at home, and because of the mandatory restrictions in each country, we are promoting stay-at-home recipes with easy ways to prepare U.S. pork cuts."
Educational programs in the region have also moved online and have been expanded to include not just food service industry professionals, but also end consumers.
"We used to educate the employees of our partners, who in turn educated consumers of the food service industry, but usually we didn't reach the end consumer as directly as now," Ruano says. "One of the benefits we have discovered is that now we are able to identify the type of audience that we want to reach, so this can give us the opportunity to focus the webinars as strategies, according to the different purchasing power levels of groups, their preferences and age groups, to influence the message that we want to give to the audience."