The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed international consumers' enthusiasm for U.S. pork and beef, but it has altered their buying behavior and changed the way the U.S. meat industry communicates with consumers. With more people across the globe working from home, spending more time at home and cooking and eating much more frequently at home, the U.S. Meat Export Federation is utilizing support from the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff Program to raise the profile of U.S. pork and beef on social media and in online promotional and educational platforms.
"We tend to see the eastern markets really lead the e-commerce online ordering surge that's been present throughout the coronavirus pandemic," says Jesse Austin, USMEF vice president for marketing. "Korea and Japan really have been at the forefront of digital marketing and that has continued. They've really stepped up their social media campaigns. One idea that Japan came out with was every day at 4 o'clock, they will release a recipe for dinner. Everybody is cooking at home. This is a pretty efficient way to communicate to families that are cooking at home on ideas for what to make for dinner and how to use U.S. beef and pork in this capacity."
Austin says while some of the western markets have lagged in the e-commerce trend, the situation has forced them to adapt quickly.
"In addition to increasing their social media presence, they have also used Facebook and platforms like this to promote webinars, events where a chef will actually work with the end users and identify what's in their fridge, and this chef will help them create a meal based on the ingredients in their fridge," Austin says.
In many markets, the food service sector has turned to home delivery, which also creates unique challenges and opportunities.
"We've also seen a surge in food delivery platforms. The biggest issue here is the western markets simply don't have the capacity to capitalize on this surge, so we've been working with food delivery companies to expand this capacity," Austin says. "One novel approach in Europe, we have participated with a food delivery company to put vehicle wraps, which is basically a mobile billboard, just tremendously increasing the visibility of U.S. pork and U.S. beef."