Innovation Kitchen – Innovative Research

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The National Pork Board has unveiled its new Innovation Kitchen. At the same time, innovative new research about a once-in-a-generation market opportunity has been unveiled. In our podcast, National Pork Board CEO Bill Even highlights the new innovation kitchen facilities at the Pork Checkoff headquarters. Even also outlines the new Insights Research into the Hispanic market.


Don Wick


Bill Even, CEO, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board. As we talked, the Pork Board was unveiling the new Innovation Kitchen and releasing some new innovative research. Let’s find out more from Bill Even, CEO of the Pork Board.

Bill Even: 00:30 Thanks Don. So the Pork Checkoff and our 15 member farmer board of directors sat down a year ago and said, you know what, we’ve got a great facility here in Des Moines, Iowa to support America’s pork producers. But we’re also responsible for working with pork as a food. And our offices here didn’t have a kitchen. And so we have chefs on staff, we’re often doing work with recipes, photography and videography. And so the board made an investment with a remodel and built out what we’re calling our Innovation Kitchen. So it’s a full functional, commercial kitchen that’s also set up to do photography and videography. And so the plan is that we will get even more aggressive supporting pork both domestically and internationally. And we can also use these facilities now for the world of photography and video. And frankly, everything is on your smartphone. And so you’ve gotta deliver that product in the venue that people want to consume it.

Don Wick: 01:25 So you’re doing some special things with the grand opening?

Bill Even: 01:29 Absolutely. So here, on October 1st we’re having the grand opening of the Innovation Kitchen. We’ve got the governor of Iowa is going to be here today as our special guest along with many other dignitaries. And we’re going to do the ribbon cutting for the kitchen. But then the big news is the Pork Board has issued their third comprehensive report on US consumers and this go around, we’re focusing on the Hispanic market.

Don Wick: 01:58 Let’s talk about it. When we take a look at this Hispanic Latino market, obviously big consumers of pork, why is it important that we capture really the tastes and desires of this marketplace?

Bill Even: 02:10 Yes. So the Hispanic market in the United States is massive. So it put some numbers on it. They’ve got $1.7 trillion in buying power, that’s trillion with a T. And on consumer packaged goods, they’re spending over $95 billion a year. So that’s your groceries and things of that nature. You add in the fact that over the past nine years nearly 70% of US population growth has come from the Hispanic community, from a base of around 60 some million people in the US. And the good news for American farmers and American pork producers is that they love pork. And so if you’re a corn or soybean farmer your future is tied in with this. The same way if you’re a pork producer. And so you’ve got these folks here in the United States, they love the product. Our product eats corn and soybeans, and we see that as a real opportunity that we shouldn’t miss. Now the other issue that comes up is that as Latinos acculturate here in the United States, over a period of generations, they start to lose a little bit of their affinity for pork. And I think that’s the real message we’re trying to deliver to the packing, processing, grocery and restaurant industry, is that we’re sitting on a gold mine of people that love the product. We need to make sure that they continue to enjoy it.

Don Wick: 03:30 So are there different ways to accomplish that? I’m thinking maybe the Cuban consumer is different than maybe the Mexican based consumer in California. Are there differences?

Bill Even: 03:43 Absolutely. There are differences and it would be a mistake to consider the Latino or Hispanic market as monolithic. Depending on where your country of heritage is, you know, I’m half Irish, half German. And so you keep those food traditions as they come through your family. It’s the same way with Latinos. And so the news for the folks in the, whether you’re trying to innovate and decide what sort of product to offer or how to position it, we’ve got some great information in our report called “Time to Tango, Latinos are Pork’s Future”. And it points out things such as nearly half of Hispanics do not choose to go to mainstream retailers, but instead they’ll prefer to go to a specialty store or an ethnic market because that’s where they’re going to be able to find the products that they’re most familiar with or comfortable with or has come from their home countries. And so if you’re thinking about positioning yourself for that market, you’re really going to have to think about how do you reset your store and what sort of products do you need to have offered in the store as well as on the menu. And pork is often consumed in family settings as well. So it’s a, it’s a group celebration where people can eat pork and we’ve got to focus on that.

Don Wick: 04:52 So is that different cuts as well?

Bill Even: 04:55 Absolutely. You know, traditional center of a plate cut may or may not be the right way to go. You think of pork as an ingredient. And that’s really one of the things that we’ve been talking about extensively is that while there are consumers out there in the United States that love to have a pork chop or a pork roast or something as center of a plate, it’s real opportunity that we’re missing is pork as an ingredient, whether it’s tacos or other types of meals. You can bring pork into that and get your nutritious, healthy protein that also tastes great.

Don Wick: 05:26 Like you said, this is just one part of the insight research has been done by the Pork Checkoff. As you kind of step back and look at it, what have we gained from this research and where does it take us?

Bill Even: 05:38 So the Pork Checkoff sat down here a little over a year ago and said, we need to fundamentally rethink about how we’re promoting pork in the United States. You know, by law we have the obligation to do research, promotion and education for the US pork industry. And so we started the most comprehensive research work that’s ever been done in the Checkoff’s nearly 35 year history and we offered our first report last spring called “Dinner at Home in America”. And thinking about how do you appeal to the traditional US consumer, not by demographic, but more by the need-state that they may have. The second report we did was “Dining Out” and that was launched here earlier this summer that was really aimed at the restaurant industry and helping them understand how pork fits into the menu selection for today’s consumer. And now the launch today, its start of October pork month, is the Hispanic report and all of these are available at, on our website. And we really would encourage people to download that and use this information to help drive their business.

Don Wick: 06:43 We’ve talked about the strategic plan Bill, where are we sitting with that total effort?

Bill Even: 06:47 So the board of directors at the Pork Checkoff have approved the new strategic plan for the organization. They started with a blank piece of paper and are completely overhauling the organization to make it very nimble and agile in structure. We moved away from traditional committees into task forces and projects and we solicited input from over a thousand producers and supply chain partners this year. And that’s helping us define a few key priorities where we’re going to spend the checkoff dollars. Bottom line, is the producers out there today want to know what their, what the return is on their checkoff investment. And while we ranked near the top of the 22 federal checkoffs with a rate of return of 25 to one. So if we get $25 in value back for the industry, for every dollar of checkoff, there’s always room for improvement. So our board has taken some very bold moves in restructuring the organization and we’ve got a lot of positive feedback from pork producers that, Hey, keep doing what you’re doing. We like what we’re seeing. Let’s get after this.

Don Wick: 07:51 Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit the