The U.S. Meat Export Federation joined other agriculture and food trade associations at the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba to pledge support for the company’s upcoming Nov. 11 “Singles Day,” an event promoting online sales of U.S. pork in China.
Singles Day has surpassed the U.S.’s Black Friday as the world’s most lucrative online shopping day, reporting more than $9 billion in sales over a 24-hour period in 2014.
The USMEF has highlighted U.S. pork on Alibaba’s tmall.com site during other special events. For example, a number of pork cuts were featured in March 2014 during observance of International Women’s Day, which is also a major shopping day in China.
“Sales were solid in 2014, but U.S. pork that is available for online purchase needs to be promoted heavily to realize big numbers,” says Ming Liang, USMEF-China marketing director.
The USMEF plans to be more aggressive with online sales this year, in anticipation of more U.S. pork plants regaining eligibility to export to China, notes Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region.
“New online models for selling meat are emerging, such as business-to-business services – sales and distribution of wholesale volumes to foodservice outlets by online providers,” Haggard explains. He adds that Alibaba’s business-to-consumer online platform predicted that e-commerce food sales will soar this year based on a wider variety of imported offerings.
At a recent gathering in Hangzhou, China, that served as a prelude to Singles Day, Alibaba signed a number of memoranda of understanding with international food trade associations – including the USMEF – to increase cooperation in sourcing and featuring imported foods.
At the event, Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma said that Alibaba wanted to globalize Singles Day and work toward the goal of “making business easy to do, anywhere.”
Haggard fielded a number of questions on U.S. beef, which currently lacks access to China. He notes that beef from Australia, Uruguay, Canada, Argentina and Brazil is available online in China, while European pork is competing with U.S. pork on the country’s emerging e-commerce battlefield.
“Online meat sales are relatively new and still challenging due to logistical issues, but there is great confidence in future growth,” Haggard says.