by Glenn Stolt, President and CEO, Christensen Farms

I recently participated in the National Pork Board’s International Marketing Committee ten-day immersion mission to Asia. While in Hong Kong we met with forty of their largest importers—the people that decide whether our U.S. pork and pork products are the ones that will be sold in retail stores, featured on the menus of restaurants and traded to other countries within the ASEAN region. Our dinner last night was part of the National Pork Board’s International Marketing Committee ten-day immersion trip to Asia.

By the time we’d arrived in Hong Kong, we’d already made stops in Singapore and Vietnam. As the “rookie” on the IM Committee, I can say that this trip can only be described as eye-opening, and I’ve walked away with a profound appreciation of just how small our world is, and has become—both in food and in relationships.

I walked in the room and immediately met a buyer who has been connected to my personal export chain, but that I’d never met in person before and who I didn’t know would be at this event. It’s always amazing to me that you can form such a strong, lasting relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world. I think that meeting in person helped further cement our relationship.

Over the years, I’ve watched us have incredible success in capturing greater market share from other popular animal proteins in large part due to the safety, quality and affordability of our products.  We must maintain, if not build upon, our relentless focus on protecting and growing our share domestically but frankly even more so globally to stay competitive against other proteins and other pork exporters.

We now need to direct our attention and resources towards an investment in understanding our global consumer and building up critical relationships in markets that we can increase pork consumption the same way we did in the U.S. over the last several decades.

As we dined over a delicious dinner of #USPork, I thanked the importers and influencers in the room just how honored we were to be able to visit their beautiful city, spend time exploring and understanding, and to meet them, in person, to thank them for their continued partnership. It is exactly these partnerships that we heavily rely on, not just here in Hong Kong but in all our major export markets around the world.

I also told them that one of the reasons the IM Committee—and the Checkoff—has invested in a trip like this, is so that we can both serve as ambassadors for our products, which I can honestly tell you that we’ve done, talking about the care on our farms to produce a safe, wholesome and quality product for export. But more than that, this trip was designed to help us better understand how we can be impactful in Hong Kong and other markets. It was built to help us understand what specifically motivates the local consumer first to choose pork over other proteins, but then, more importantly, what will convince them to choose our pork. To choose U.S. pork.

I meant what I said—the world is small and getting smaller. We can do a lot to form relationships long-distance, but sometimes that personal touch makes all the difference. Even though we’re half a world apart, it doesn’t feel like that when we’re sharing a meal and talking about what motivates and connects us all: safe, wholesome, quality food.