Intense competition for market share among suppliers to the Japanese pork market has caused branding efforts to mushroom to meet local consumer demand for product differentiation, according to U.S. pork industry officials touring the nation this week.

U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Phil Seng says up to 20 countries are competing for market share in Japan, seeking to woo consumers with products tailored to their needs.

“This lends itself very well to the U.S. pork industry because we have a tremendous ability to brand our products and differentiate our products in many ways here in Japan,” says Seng in a media briefing from Tokyo Wednesday.

Joining Seng on the conference call were National Pork Board President Tim Bierman, National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak, USMEF Vice Chair Danita Rodibaugh and Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region.

The officials are visiting Japan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Hog Lift, when Iowa farmers responded to a major typhoon by airlifting hogs and grain to Japan. Officials are also assessing market activities and U.S. pork promotions in Tokyo.

Seng says Japanese consumers are willing to pay for product brand differentiation based, for example, on hog breed or type of feed or geography.

Pork export sales to Japan in 2009 were valued at $1.5 billion and USMEF projects a 4% increase in 2010.
U.S. pork currently holds nearly 46% market share of Japan’s pork products imported.

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