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American Angus Association Board of Director Abbie Nelson featured in ad

TOKYO (March 15, 2002) — A new U.S. campaign designed to deliver messages of safety, taste and nutrition directly to Japanese consumers was launched here Friday morning, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng.

"We have a unique approach," said Seng, who was in Tokyo to oversee the campaign launch and to meet with members of the Japanese meat trade during Tokyo’s annual FoodEx Trade Show, the largest in Asia.

"Our ads feature three American wives and mothers who share the concerns of Japanese women about the safety of food they serve their families. These three women also work in the U.S. beef industry. The first ad appeared in Japan’s two leading newspapers this morning and the magazine ads and television commercials are scheduled to start next month," Seng explained.

The ads feature: Angus seedstock producer and American Angus Association Board of Director Abbie Nelson, in Sacramento, Calif.; Gina Bellinger, president of Food Safety Net Services, Inc., a food safety testing laboratory in San Antonio, Texas; and Leann Saunders, V.P. of Marketing and Communications for PM Holdings, LLC, a beef processor based in Kansas City.

The campaign will be paid for by reprioritizing existing programs in Japan and through special contributions of beef producers through their beef checkoff, state corn and soybean checkoffs and associations, packers, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and others in the industry who do business in Japan. With an original goal of $8 million to fund this campaign, Seng said USMEF has raised $8.389 million to enable the U.S. industry speak directly to consumers.

Seng said the campaign approach developed by USMEF provides building blocks on which additional advertising and public relations efforts can easily be built.

"Our new effort – we’re calling it our ‘aisareru beef,’ or desire beef, campaign – will target moms with children living at home. Our immediate objective will be to generate consumer confidence in U.S. beef, then build intent to buy and use it. Longer term," Seng said, "we want U.S. beef identified as safe, nutritious, delicious and healthy." This theme will be carried to retail outlets and restaurants through coordinated trade activities, Seng noted.

The U.S. ads will appear in Asahi and Yomiuri (newspapers) in March and April, in Orange Page, Kyono Ryori, ESSE and other targeted women’s magazines April through June, and on Nippon Television Network, Fuji TV, and selected cable and satellite television networks April through September. Retail and foodservice promotions in April will be tied directly to and be supported by the advertising, while public relations activities will work to deliver nutrition messages and meal preparation ideas.

"We believe strongly that science has shown beef should be part of a balanced and healthful diet," Seng said. "Our campaign, therefore, will include food education as well. We will provide science-based nutrition news to help consumers better understand the role beef plays in providing the zinc, iron, protein and B-vitamins their families need to remain strong and healthy.

"We know that Japanese housewives — just like those in America — have a responsibility to protect their family’s health. But they also have the right to learn and understand facts about the beef they eat, to know how it is grown and processed, and to understand the commitment of U.S. growers and processors to beef quality and safety," Seng said.

Japan is the No. 1 U.S. beef export market. After a record year in 2000, exports of beef and beef variety meats to Japan were off 11 percent in volume, at nearly 468,751 metric tons, and were off 13 percent in value, at $1.54 billion, during 2001. Seng noted that significant drops in exports of 32 and 35 percent for November and December respectively were the direct result of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.

"Should the trend established during the last two months of 2001 continue, the impact would be devastating for the U.S. industry in 2002. And although the annual percentages seem small, reduced exports to Japan cost the U.S. industry $231 million in sales last year," Seng noted. "That’s roughly equivalent to U.S. beef and beef variety meat sales to Russia, the Middle East, China, Taiwan, and Central and South America during 2001."

High U.S. beef prices and demand, combined with a strong dollar against the yen and a weak Japanese economy to push U.S. imports lower prior to the discovery of BSE in the Japanese herd in September. Since September, all imports have been down sharply as Japanese consumption dropped 30 to 50 percent at both retail and restaurant levels. While there has been recently a slight recovery in consumption, large stocks of chilled and frozen beef remain in inventory and first quarter sales by U.S. exporters are reportedly running 30 to 35 percent below levels of a year ago.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs

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