This morning opened with a breakfast meeting with key Japanese packers including ISO, Cargill, Tyson and National. The entire USMEF mission team—representing corn, soybeans, beef and pork from nine states—had informal discussions with these representatives.
USMEF CEO Phil Seng opened the meeting by thanking the packers for joining us, noting that "These folks are the pathfinders and we thank them for being with us, even when the going got tough."
The Cargill representative noted that while China gets a lot of attention, "don't forget Japan; we're back after 10 years."
During the conversation with the Tyson rep, he noted that there is a focus on the top hotels across Japan—working hard to get them to reintroduce American beef to their menus, especially for the large and lucrative catering business. Essentially, they focus on the premium hotels, considering them as "bell cows" which other hotels will follow.
He also said that, now that American beef is back in the Japanese marketplace, the next stage will be brand differentiation, perhaps including store-level private brands of American beef.
Following breakfast, we took a quick trip to Tokyo Station, one of the largest public transportation hubs in Tokyo, through which some 400,000 people pass each day. USMEF has place a high-profile saturation advertising campaign in the main pedestrian throughway, with repeated ads for American beef. Several dozen ads appear on columns throughout the area—promoting the "juku" campaign and soliciting entries in the sweepstakes noted in an earlier blog.
Next up: One-on-one conversations with several dozen of Japan's leading food bloggers.
Continue to follow the Midwest Corn Growers Study Tours blog, designed to capture the highlights - and a few details - of study tours made by corn growers from Nebraska and other corn states.