The National Pork Board hosted a news conference for media from throughout the U.S. and Canada at World Pork Expo. In Part II of a two-part edition of Pork Pod, we hear the second half of that news briefing. CEO Bill Even, VP of Domestic Marketing Jarrod Sutton and VP of International Marketing Craig Morris offer insights into market trends and Pork Checkoff initiatives.
Bill Even, CEO, NPB
Jarrod Sutton, VP of Domestic Marketing, NPB
Craig Morris, VP of International Marketing, NPB
Don Wick: 00:05 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, its 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 Done Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and today we feature part two of a two part conversation. Actually the news conference that took place with the Pork Checkoff at World Pork Expo. We begin with comments from Jarrod Sutton, Vice President of Domestic Marketing for the National Pork Board.
Jarrod Sutton: 00:32 As I try to summarize the interest that consumers have in how they’re consuming food today, I would say there are two key questions that we get asked frequently. What’s in it? Where does it come from? That’s the best way to summarize how we’re building our strategy moving forward, what’s in the product and where does it come from. And what a tremendous story we have to tell in the pork industry.
Jarrod Sutton: 00:53 So it’s really about the quality of the product that we produce. We talk about that a lot. You can define that a lot of different ways. We’ll talk a little bit about how we’re proactively communicating that to consumers. Everything that we’re doing, and you’ve heard me say this before, unless you’re new, so you’ll hear it for the first time. We’re research heavy, data heavy and assumption light. All of our decisions are fact based because what we’re attempting to do is drive alignment in the pork industry to be consistent in how we’re representing the quality of the product and the eating experience for our product and so that that requires outreach.
Jarrod Sutton: 01:25 The research that we collect, the data that we collect, how we essentially analyze that data, looking for those insights that can help us be better at targeting the right messaging to the right consumers in the right way at the right time. And then effectively communicating that out, not only through our Pork Checkoff marketing dollars, but alignment in the supply chain to have more packers and processers talking about these same key important points. So let’s talk about some of those. There’s really three foundational messages that we intend to hone in on and have been, thus far, in 2017 to change the way that people think about pork. Number one is about nutrition. Number two is about convenience and the third piece is the eating experience. So I’ll unpack each of those quickly here. Nutrition, this convergence of health and sustainability is for real. We talk about consumers a lot, but I like to think of consumers as eaters, and the eaters are people, and the people now are co-creators and our brand’s narrative.
Jarrod Sutton: 02:25 That’s the world that we live in today, especially with social media. We’ve got to be engaged and connected with consumers and positioning our messaging to effectively appeal to what they’re most interested in or concerned about. And so how do we do that? What’s in this product or where does it come from? What’s in the product that I’m consuming and how does it benefit me? Pork has eight cuts that actually meet the specifications that USDA has defined for the definition of lean. That’s an important message that we intend to more aggressively communicate out to consumers and to stakeholders, to be consistent in that messaging. Number two is about convenience. We talk about this a lot, but convenience is really about how does this product fit into my lifestyle. That’s really fueled by innovation, research, analysis, understand the various segments of consumers, whether it be a value based shopper or a premium based shopper. What their busy lifestyles are like, and how pork can potentially fit into that lifestyle through current products that we offer that they may not know about, or probably through innovation.
Jarrod Sutton: 03:30 Innovation for new merchandising of existing products can be as simple as pack size at the retail point of purchase or innovation of new product development, which is pretty exciting and we’re having lots of conversations with the processors in the industry to effectively fuel that innovation through those sound insights and research to discover new products. The third piece, as I said, is about the eating experience. Uh, we’ve got a lot of partnerships in play right now to effectively communicate how to ensure the best optimum eating experience with fresh pork, in particular. What we know through research is that consumers struggle with consistently achieving a delicious eating experience. Okay, so let me say that again. I think we overcomplicate it sometimes. People want to have a delicious eating experience every time. So what can we do to arm them with whatever tools that they need or ideas that they need to ensure that they can be successful in that, either through the food chain, on the food service side and outreach to our food service customers to ensure they’re preparing it the right way, or obviously how they can do it at home. So just a few examples of some of the work that we’re doing here domestically at this time. I’ll close and introduce my colleague, Dr Craig Morris to talk about some of the things we’re doing in the international market.
Craig Morris: 04:42 Well, good morning and thank you very much. I want to begin my comments today by building off some of the comments that were given by our National Pork Board CEO Bill Even last week at the historic World Meat Congress, and it’s a theme I think you’ve already heard from our previous speakers today. It’s truly an exciting time for the US pork industry. 2017 was a historic, frankly record breaking year for US pork. Exports accounted for nearly 27 percent of all US pork and pork variety meat production. Why does that matter? Because those same exports delivered staggering returns of nearly $54 per head to our nation’s pork producers. US pork production only continues to increase as our producers continue to be more efficient at what they do. And those producer efforts are augmented by our commitment to research as Dave just outlined. However, all of that increase in production has to go somewhere, and while the Pork Checkoff works day in and day out to increase domestic consumption, as Jarrod just talked about through a number of tactics that he has in play. As Secretary Perdue said last week at that same World Meat Congress, free and fair trade is truly the key for US agricultural exports and our success. And that’s very true for pork as we have a greater dependence on exports than any other livestock commodity
Craig Morris: 06:10 Where is all this product going? It’s going to not only Mexico and China, that we read a lot about in the news today, but it’s also going to Japan. It’s going to South Korea, it’s going to Canada. It’s going to South America, it’s going to Central America, it’s going to the Caribbean, it’s going to a variety of regions all over the world,
Craig Morris: 06:28 And those regions that are not talked about often times are producing double digit returns on products that would not be consumed here domestically. International marketing plays a hugely important role in our ability to export our products, break records, and deliver producer returns. This year, the National Pork Board leadership, the noted international marketing is one of our four organizational goals, underscoring the importance of exports to our industry’s future, while also turning up the heat on me a little bit, but also on our strategic partners, in US Meat Export Federation and the National Pork Producers Council, to do everything we can to make sure that US pork products find willing customers abroad. The challenge and the opportunity with exports is making sure we’re targeting existing and emerging markets in a strategic and meaningful way. Learning what consumers want in those defined regional areas and meeting them where they are. I just got back from a trip with Jarrod, actually, to Mexico where we toured retail facilities and met with food influencers in Mexico. Mexican consumers are steadily replacing other cuts of meat with pork. They’re desiring a more special protein. In many cases, replacing beef and some other more expensive items. We’re seeing a truly dietary pattern shift within Mexico towards pork consumption. That’s something that we’re working very hard to take advantage of. Thank you very much. I’d like to now introduce our CEO, Bill Even.
Bill Even: 07:51 Thank you, Craig. Good morning! A pleasure to be with you here today. And I’ll put, try to put a ribbon around and conclude some of the comments that you heard from the folks here, at our news conference here at World Pork Expo. So first off, you heard from her new president, Steve Rommereim from South Dakota, my fellow South Dakotan. It is indeed an exciting time to raise pigs. Um, there’s also a Chinese proverb that says, may you live in interesting times. We certainly have that in spades. If you were here for the National Pork Producers Council, a news conference earlier, you get a sense of the, what’s at stake in the US pork industry as it faces the world. And it’s an exciting time for producers when you think about technology. The National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff and our producers just came back from, the team came back from Boston, where we were a sponsor and a participant in a gene editing conference held at Harvard University. John, roughly how many people were in attendance there? 400 people there and it was on the front end of the bio conference that will have over 15,000 people. The Pork Checkoff and the pork dollar that is spent by producers is actively engaging on these new technologies. Things like blockchain, things like alternative proteins. Really understanding what that marketplace is looking like from a technological standpoint.
Bill Even: 09:15 Along with that, you’re well aware of the increasing harvest capacity’s being built out in the industry, the increasing production capacity that’s being built on the ground in rural America. Those plants are coming online. The last one will be the Prestage plant here in central Iowa is due to be online here later this year and that new capacity is incredibly important if we’re going to be able to process these pigs that were raising on America’s farms.
Bill Even: 09:44 You also heard from Jarrod a little bit about the creative new ways that we’re going to outreach to producers through digital and digital marketing. We’ve talked a bit last year about the business to business engagement and I want to leave you with two points. The amount of work that that team is doing across the waterfront with packers, the processors, retailers, as well as the grocery retailers, as well as the food service industry, is nothing short of staggering. You see these types of partnerships with Weber and the Pork Checkoff are examples of things that we’re doing to lean in and proactively engage with that supply chain to ensure that they know how to deliver pork’s message and amplify that out.
Bill Even: 10:26 So let’s talk about a couple of the initiatives and just to put a put a final point on that. You heard about Secure Pork Supply from Dr. David Pyburn. Dr. Patrick Webb is here in the back of the room with us today, as well. That work around business continuity should there be a foreign animal disease outbreak is critically important to the economic viability of our producers. It’s going to be critically important if Dr. Morris and our international marketing group are going to be able to be successful internationally. You heard about these consumer insights and action. One thing that I want to make sure that you share this message to US pork producers. When we talked about changing our marketing strategy from a real heavy generic kind of bulk advertising on TV and radio to really shifting to a digital platform that allows us to tailor a message to you, to you and to you that meets you and where you live on a mobile platform. Rest assured, we’re talking to consumers more than ever before. We’re talking to a broader base of consumers more than ever before and we’re delivering them messages that resonate with them on who they are and where they live. That’s important for you folks to note from a media perspective.
Bill Even: 11:37 International marketing. You heard from Dr. Craig Morris around the staggering growth in US pork exports, going from a net pork importer a little over 20 years ago, now to pushing over 27 percent of our product moving internationally. Folks, that is a success story.
Bill Even: 11:56 US pork production is the most cost efficient and productive in the world. There is a reason that we’re expanding in this country. Pork is the number one consumed meat protein on the planet. Fully 43 percent of the world’s population is consuming pork. Poultry comes in second at around 35 percent. There’s a reason these investments are being made by the producers, by the packers, by the ag banking industry, by the allied industry to support this production system. So we’re in a good spot, but it’s not without risks, so I want to acknowledge Bill Winkelman. Bill, raise your hand. Bill’s in charge of our state outreach. One other item that I want to mention is that we are not doing this alone. There are over 40 state pork associations that are doing that diligent hard work on the ground, and Bill and his team are actively working shoulder to shoulder with these folks, delivering the national message, but tailoring it for something that’s relevant, whether you’re living in North Carolina, Minnesota, or Oklahoma. I think that’s important for us to note.
Don Wick: 13:10 Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.