Canada Beef cooks up new marketing ideas

Marketing: News Roundup from the April 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

The new grading label conveys grading information to Canada’s international customers.

Canada Beef is looking for new ways to promote old favourites such as ground beef, Michael Young told attendees of the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference earlier this year.

The ground beef category represents 60 to 65 per cent of retail sales, Young, president of Canada Beef, told the crowd. But a lack of recent innovations combined with pressure from faux meat mean future market share is far from a sure bet. In an interview, Young added that the focus is on creating new, distinct products that won’t eat into market share of existing products.

“We don’t want to replace anything. It’s all incremental.”

Young and his colleagues aren’t stopping at ground beef. They’re looking at everything from smaller beef roasts (sized for two people) to thinly sliced meat for hot pots to tips for turning a barbeque into a smokehouse. The goal is to introduce new ideas to the marketplace every six months.

“We want a bigger market share in the retail case. We want a bigger market share on the menu. We know we have to earn it. And that’s what these programs will do.”

Beefing up export demand

On the export side, Canada Beef is rolling out new grading labels. Young says international customers understand the U.S. grading system, but not the Canadian grading system. He notes that Canada has harmonized its grading system with the American system in many areas, which puts an “as-good or better product in the box. However, nobody knows about it.”

The new grading label will feature the grade itself and descriptive text, but will have a large transparent area, so it doesn’t cover too much of the product.

“We tested it in Canada first, and everybody who saw it said they want it, which is interesting. The export market definitely wants it,” says Young.

Last year, Canada Beef also rolled out an export market development program through the national check-off. That program includes all provinces and eligible end-users, says Young. It covers 50 per cent of eligible costs in activities such as incoming or outgoing trade missions, promotion (including branding, co-branding or generic promotion), event attendance and competitive benchmarking.

Canada Beef also has a similar model for domestic market development.

The export market development program is designed for export markets only, but Canada Beef doesn’t dictate the priority export markets, Young says.

“Priority markets to a supply partner are markets of opportunity for them. And they can exist anywhere as long as they are outside of Canada and they meet the eligible criteria, which is fairly stringent.”

Earlier this year, the Alberta government granted the agency $500,000 to stack on top of the national program.

“It’s an exciting program because it takes it from a 50/50 support to a 75/25 and it covers a wide berth of initiatives and tactics that are needed for export growth,” says Young.

Although the model is new to the beef industry, it’s built on a long-time pork industry model, and so is familiar to the Alberta government.

Young adds that it allows them to leverage money that’s already on the table with provincial dollars to boost that region. “So you’ve got regional investment for global growth.”

Canada Beef will also be looking for partnerships with other provincial governments, Young adds.

“These are good programs because they are true partnerships, meaning that it’s a partnership between Canada Beef, the local provincial government and also the local industry.”

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