By Claire Masker

Exports of U.S. pork finished strong in June after struggling earlier in the year, with South Korea remaining a bright spot. According to USDA, year-to-date sales to South Korea totaled 263.6 million pounds valued at $332.4 million.
“South Korea has one of the world’s highest pork consumption rates at 63.7 pounds per person,” said Norman Bessac, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff.

“While South Korea is a top-five U.S. pork market, we only hold 35% of its import market share,” Bessac said. “There’s good growth potential as stronger U.S.-Korea relationships develop and marketing efforts emphasize the benefits of U.S. pork products.”
In 2018, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to South Korea increased 40% in volume and reached $670 million, up 41% from 2017 levels. Both numbers were the best on record for South Korea .

The Checkoff capitalized on the popularity of beer and food pairings to promote pork to young Korean consumers.

“The Pork Checkoff is working closely with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to promote U.S. pork to Korean consumers in unique ways,” Bessac said.

Recently, USMEF organized a U.S. Pork and The Booth Beer Pairing Night, to introduce Korean consumers to pairing premium craft beer with processed pork items, such as salami, prosciutto, sausage and bacon.  “Koreans, especially those in their 30s and 40s, have shown an increasing desire to explore food and drink combinations beyond wine,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea. “Beer and food pairings have become popular.”

The USMEF event capitalized on that by expanding awareness of U.S. processed pork and how it can be paired with craft beers. To build interest, USMEF used The Booth’s social media channels and partnered with GQ (Korea). The Booth is a brewing company leader in Korea’s craft beer industry. Its motto, Follow Your Fun, is popular with young Koreans who prefer to dine out.  “When it comes to eating pork, most Koreans automatically think about grilling pork belly in a pan,” Yang said. “But people are opening up to other ways of consuming pork, such as pairing processed pork with beer.”