Expanding and Elevating U.S. Pork Trade

Exports are very important to the U.S. pork industry
( National Pork Board )

Editor’s Note:
Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for the National Pork Board, recently wrote this article, which was offered exclusively to Farm Journal’s Pork. International marketing opportunities are pivotal to the U.S. pork industry’s long-term success. Morris understands its importance, and shares here how he and NPB are meeting present and future challenges.

Craig Morris
Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for the National Pork Board

As the keynote speaker at the Global Midwest Alliance recently, I was honored to deliver a presentation centered on a theme that’s incredibly relevant to the direction and goals of the National Pork Board (NPB) and the U.S. pork industry. For the first time, NPB has included international marketing as one of its four organizational goals for 2018. This strategic intent, to elevate international marketing of U.S. pork, demonstrates how important exports are to producers’ bottom lines, now and in the future.

U.S. pork exports had a record-breaking year in 2017. Exports accounted for nearly 27% of all pork and pork variety meat production, and exports returned nearly $54 per head to pork producers. As U.S. pork production continues to grow, increasing demand domestically and in our international markets will be vital in supporting pork prices.

It is no surprise that we want to build on the record 2017, and to do that – to innovate and thrive – we need to be proactive, strategic and insightful. I believe that, as an organization, we are:

Proactive – In addition to defining international marketing as one of NPB’s organizational goals, the leadership also had the foresight to double down on its investment in international marketing, increasing its Checkoff investment by nearly 10% this year.

Strategic – The Checkoff investments are allocated in very tactical ways through strategic partnerships with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and the National Pork Producers Council. We have revamped our producer leadership in a newly formed International Marketing Committee and have invested in events and mission trips throughout the year to gain insight and deepen relationships.

Beyond ensuring that every dollar is deployed in the most efficient and meaningful way, we are also executing a comprehensive strategy to ensure that not all of our bacon is in one basket.

Export illustration 1

Gone are the days of “one size fits all” when it comes to international marketing and product positioning. We are looking at every international market as unique. We are analyzing the opportunities and challenges and identifying ways to reach consumers and grow consumption in these markets. Our packers and processors are also innovating – working to produce a product that meets individual specifications of a customer’s unique needs and corner a new market.

And while we are focused on those new and emerging markets, we are also strategically talking about U.S. pork in a new way – not as a commodity, but as a unique and special product with a story. I recently returned from Mexico, our largest export market, where we are branding U.S. pork sold at retail with a new marketing campaign that emphasizes safety and quality.

Insights – To continue to grow U.S. pork exports, we need insights. We need to know how our global consumers are thinking about food, about pork and what is motivating their purchasing decisions. We need to go beyond underlying trends and purchases to dig deep —forecasting the next 10 or 20 years, and looking at how we can better understand our customers and meet their needs.

Export illustration 2

We need a crystal ball, and we are building one in the form of an in-depth international consumer study called Pork 2040. We will look to identify significant, sweeping ideas of change in the various export markets for U.S. pork that will have an impact on pork demand over the course of the next 20-plus years—and drill down into what those “change factors” may be so we can proactively address them.

Taken together, continued proactivity, strategic execution and food foresight will be how the U.S. pork industry thrives, despite a sometimes (and likely continued) challenging trade environment.