Celebrate Differences

On my last day in Taiwan, I’m building on a previous post (Dewa Mata) in which I made some observations about the Japanese market for U.S. beef–here are some similar observations for the second part of my Fellowship trip. Will this be my last post? I’m not sure…I guess we shall see if the muse stays with me…

Safety is the price of entry (part deux)

At risk of sounding like a broken record, if safety is important in Japan, it is even more important in Taiwan (is that possible?). With an influential news media (dare I say the media here have a more sensitive hair-trigger than at home?), we can’t afford to give either politics or media a chance to tank the market. We know we do it right–we know we have the most stringent safety standards in the world. We know that the checkoff, in partnership with industry partners, makes significant investments in beef safety every single year. Let’s not take our eye off the ball (and remember to encourage our partners as well) to tell the story of our impeccable, continuing efforts on the beef safety front.

We’re baaaack

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Young Taiwanese love U.S. beef. Generally, they have fewer issues with eating beef than their elders (with respect to religion or husbandry as I’ve mentioned here before). Our job here (given what I’ve said above) will be to prove how yummy we are, especially when compared to pork, and build consumers the confidence to add more beef servings to their diet. And, as the CEO of the Beef Board, I’m allowed to say it out loud–in this market, pork=Goliath and beef=David. Pork is traditional, well-understood, well-loved. We know what we have to offer. We need to load up the slingshot and fire away.

Beef Can Be Mature and JIT here too

I’ve heard a LOT about wet and dry aging since I arrived. A noticeable trend in both retail and foodservice, it plays well with our need to ship product. However, the best steakhouses have product air shipped in a couple of days, then dry age it from 21 to 45 days onsite. They tell me discerning consumers pay for the waste, the hassle and the process. Good news for U.S. beef. Perhaps a dry aging movement would work well in Japan, if we associate it with the “mature” or “right time” concept mentioned before in this space.

Our Product Offering Works

In my closing post about Japan, I mentioned the trend of “Just for Japan” products. I believe (due to a growing “Westernization” of Taiwan) the products we offer our domestic consumers work well here, with the caveat that consumers here are more familiar with pork, and need education about the many ways to cook beef. And, like chefs at home, white tablecloth chefs here crave creative ideas to offer the discerning palates.

U.S. First, Company Brands Second

Even though we’re feeling the love, we still have some work to do to solidify our relationship with Taiwan’s younger consumers — to tell them about the product attributes of U.S. beef, to teach them about different cuts and appropriate ways to prepare beef. IMO, the Taiwan retail market is not as ripe for a brand bustout as Japan. However, I did hear in multiple foodservice meetings that restaurants need differentiation (read: brands) to compete in this HIGHLY competitive environment (particularly in Taipei). Opportunity exists for different production methods (natural, organic, grass-fed, and whatever else we can think of to differentiate), different product claims and creative ideas in Taiwan. Calling all beef entrepreneurs–come on out to Taiwan (but get ready to study and learn about how to do business in Asia. If you’re ethnocentric, you needn’t apply).

Taiwan Loves Baseball

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At the Elephants and Lions game last Tuesday night. Let me tell you, between the fan band, the horns, the drums and the yellow cone knocker thingies, this place has some enthusiastic baseball fans!

…and American ball player Manny Rimerez. Huh? It’s not as random as you may think. Taiwan loves American sport–particularly baseball and basketball. They admire American athletes (and athletes here at home). In the U.S., the checkoff funded “power of protein” concept pays dividends to encourage consumers’ love for beef. The health and nutrition message, coupled with images of strength and power, as the checkoff is doing at home, would work well here, with Taiwan’s youth, who are health conscious, more willing to turn to food (instead of supplements) to get the nutrients they need, and have a tradition of Chinese medicine (which teaches about the power of nutrients in food) to fall back on. The Power of Protein–call me crazy, but I think a campaign extension opportunity in Taiwan. The messaging would be slightly different (it’s not the same here, remember what I’ve said before about having the in-country expertise), but I think it has “legs.”

Convenience

People work long hours here, and many women go to the office every day too–especially in Taipei. Convenience plays an important role here–just like in Japan (and the U.S. I’m sensing a trend…)

Packaging Matters

Like Japan, packaging matters. But here, I mean ANY packaging. Many Taiwanese shop for meat hanging from a hook in an open-air wet market (it is the traditional way of marketing pork and chicken). Elder consumers want to touch and smell for freshness. Young consumers, however, don’t have time (or interest?), and go to supermarkets. Again, we have opportunity with younger consumers here. Some creative shopkeepers now sell meat in temperature-controlled cases, in independent shops close to wet markets–taking advantage of the close-to-home location of the markets.

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Disclaimer: This blog and the thoughts on it are my own flights of fancy. They don’t represent the views of the beef checkoff, CBB, the Operating Committee, or USMEF. I’m so glad the checkoff has in-country experts who know these markets and work on behalf of producers every day.

Random Photo of the Day:

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A quick game of “Name that Meat” anyone? I’ll give you a hint: the long ones are tongues. Thank you Lord, for international markets.

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Heeey…wait a minute? You talkin’ about me?!?

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Snot soup? Booger bologna? Nosh a nostril? Schnoz sandwich? Loogie lasagne?

Catch you back in the states, dear reader!

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