by Derrick Sleezer, International Marketing Committee Vice Chair

Derrick Sleezer and Glenn Stolt of the International Marketing Committee at an AEON supermarket promotion featuring U.S. pork in Vietnam.

I recently returned home from the National Pork Board’s International Marketing Committee Asia Mission that included stops in Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. As my first trip to Asia, I really had no idea what to expect. Before the trade mission, I fully understood that the region is a significant market for U.S. pork and that pork is a mainstay in consumer diets. With that said, I found myself questioning how we can better position U.S. pork as the leading provider in these countries.

Upon arriving in Singapore, we were able to visit a processor of Bak Kwa or traditional pork jerky. While there, we actually saw a delivery of U.S. pork unloaded at the facility, and it was fascinating to see first-hand how the openness to trade allows for acceptance of foreign goods. The U.S. currently holds a just a five percent market share in the Singapore pork sector, and because pork is a major protein food staple, there is vast opportunity to increase market share. Singapore is an attractive market – U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to Singapore were up 34 percent by volume and 26 percent by value in 2017 – with good prospects in high-end outlets where consumers are willing to pay premium prices for higher quality.

In visiting Vietnam, my initial thought was I was not sure how well our reception would be as Americans. However, after spending some time there, I found my concerns unfounded by our open reception by our trading partners. Vietnam is a country that is currently mainly self-sufficient in domestic pork production, but in meeting with a prominent retailer and various importers, I saw future opportunities for U.S. pork to fill an increasing void as growth in income supports increased consumption of animal protein beyond that which Vietnam can produce itself. Had we maintained our inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Vietnam was a market ranked as one of the biggest markets for growth of U.S. agricultural exports. Nonetheless, in 2017, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to Vietnam were up 50 percent by volume and 143 percent by value. After having seen the market for myself, I see there is still tremendous opportunity for continued growth and expansion for U.S. pork in this market.

Derrick Sleezer presenting gifts of appreciation to restaurant owners and U.S. pork supporters in Vietnam.

We next visited Honk Kong where I expected to see a large trading partner that receives and consumes a large amount of U.S. pork. The U.S. has ranked as the largest supplier (by value) of agricultural products to Hong Kong since 2010, and around 38 percent of imports of foods are re-exported—meaning our exports to Hong Kong also bring U.S. agricultural products to Macau, Mainland China, and other markets as well. We had the unique opportunity to visit the Port of Hong Kong—the world’s sixth largest port—and seeing a port of this magnitude truly gave me a different perspective. Hong Kong is an incredibly competitive export market due to the lack of duties and phytosanitary restrictions on pork imports, combined with no domestic hog production in the market. This lends itself to Hong Kong’s robust economy that demands safe, high-quality products, at which the U.S. excels.

Our last stop on the trip was Macau where we visited the largest hotel and casino in the world, the Venetian. Macau has three times the gambling revenue of the entire State of Nevada, and understanding the magnitude of this venue exemplifies the demand for both quantity and quality protein. With a hotel and casino of this scale demanding excellence from the food they provide their guests, U.S. pork is well positioned to showcase our product to a large and consistent tourist-driven consumer base.

Through this experience, we were able to gather critical insights that will undoubtedly be crucial as we work to secure U.S. pork as the global protein of choice. As a producer, it was truly enlightening to see that we have built meaningful partnerships in these countries. I believe that with the competitiveness and quality of U.S. pork, we will continue to see many opportunities in the Asian marketplace.