CHICAGO -- Consumers around the world want convenience, variety, value and quality from an international meat and poultry industry that has an estimated value in excess of $500 billion, according to a presentation given by Cryovac, Duncan, S.C., at the Worldwide Food Expo here.
Global opportunities for the market were also expected to continue to grow, according to an introductory video presentation, partially due to a world population that is projected to double in the next few decades.
Cryovac's president, Gary Kaenzig, taking the podium, questioned "Just how important is the global meat market to your business?"
He then went on to give attendees some background on the state of American meat exports. "From this country alone, close to 500,000 tons of pork, over 1 million tons of beef and 2.5 million tons of poultry will be exported in 1997.
"By the end of 1998, it is estimated that the world's Top 10 exporting countries will be shipping over 13 million tons of meat and poultry. That's a lot of worldwide commerce," commented Kaenzig.
"Our purpose this morning is to clearly define the opportunities and then provide a quick look at several specific countries and their supermarket industries."
He noted that the experiences of retailers from Brazil, China, Poland, South Africa and the United States -- which would be presented during the session -- would offer windows onto the marketplaces of their native countries.
Kaenzig said many of the strongest meat export opportunities exist in developing countries, particularly in Latin America and Asia.
He said the developing middle class of these countries "has an appetite for new products offering quality, convenience and safety at an affordable price. For the first time, many people see an opportunity to climb the economic ladder. And one of the things waiting for them at the top of that ladder is a better meal -- one with more meat and poultry on the plate."
He said food safety had moved to the forefront over the past year, and explained that recognized food-safety requirements for meat and poultry plants can also serve as a powerful marketing tool.
Kaenzig went on to point out the importance of having an in-depth cultural understanding of the country you intend to do business with.
"Today, you need to ship much more than product; you need to thoroughly understand the country, the culture, the language and the history of the people who will be your customers."
He said that although the process wouldn't be fast and easy that such efforts would pay off in the end.
"Today's global climate requires a fresh export mentality, which means viewing your product form the customer's perspective. In a world of different cultures, this may require some serious attitude and marketing adjustment."
In terms of how to approach the global marketplace, Kaenzig suggested beginning at the end. "Your final link in the marketing chain [is] the consumer. If you know your consumer, your chances for success are greatly improved."
To make the most of those opportunities, according to the video, international industry players must transform themselves from simply importers or exporters into savvy marketers.
Kaenzig began his global exploration of the meat industry with Brazil, a country he said had made great progress in the meat industry.
The video profile of Brazil noted it comprises more than half of the South American continent and has the largest market economy in Latin America.
It went on to note today's Brazilians are looking for more convenience-oriented products in the supermarkets. The video added the transition from carcass to boxed to case and fully prepared meats was well on its way in Brazil.
Two Brazilian supermarket executives were profiled, sharing some of their experiences with attendees.
Jose Simao Filho, executive director of the Groupo Pao de Acucar, Sao Paulo, Brazil, the second-largest supermarket chain in Brazil, said his customers were looking for less expensive, more accessible cuts of meat.
Orlando Augusto Gabriel, general manager of meat and perishables of the Se Supermarcados chain, also based in Sao Paulo, and which has 19 stores, predicted a trend toward growth and innovations in the meat department.
"Our customers will be looking for quality and packaged foods that can be prepared quickly, because they are short on time," said Gabriel. "The main thing they want is quality, convenience and practicality."
Moving on to examine another vast market, Kaenzig questioned in what ways retailers were managing to satisfy China, a country with a billion consumers on the other side of the world.
The video profile of China noted that "upper-income consumers in China look for convenience and freshness when supermarket shopping."
Low Kim Tuan, general manager of merchandising at Parkson Corp., a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based supermarket chain with more than seven outlets in China, said "I think the quality of the freshness is No. 1, and the second thing is the comprehensive range of the meat and perishables that make the difference of our supermarket compared with others."
Moving on to another market many miles west, Kaenzig called today's Polish supermarket business red hot. The video profile noted that Poland's booming private sector had propelled its country on to the list of the world's Top 10 emerging markets. And it noted that "although Poland's retail sector still remains underdeveloped, consumers are quickly becoming acclimated to the advantage of supermarket shopping."
The potential for exploring individual Polish markets was also examined. "While most foreign supermarket investment in Poland has focused in a few large cities, there is a significant, but untapped, market for both retailers and meat markets in Polish cities of 50,000 to 100,000 people," said the video profile.
The profile also noted that "as the Polish economy matures, it means new supermarkets and new opportunities for international meat marketers."
Horst Kohrs, general manager of the Hanover, Germany-based German supermarket group Edeka offered some insights into the Polish market.
"Our meat departments here are operated only by service personnel [no self-service]. Contrary to our expectations, the Polish buy relatively large amounts of meat and sausage products," said Kohrs.
Irena Chlebowska, president of the Zloty Grosz, or Golden Penny, supermarket, in Poznan, Poland, said "our consumers are becoming consumers of convenience. They want to buy things which enable them to prepare their meals in the shortest amount of time."
She concluded that "they are well educated and they will not return to the kitchen the way it was years ago."
Another country that Cryovac's Kaenzig said was experiencing tremendous change was South Africa.
The South African video profile noted "although large urban centers are serviced by modern, Western-style supermarkets and hypermarkets, low-income urban areas have been underserved by supermarket chains. This segment of the population represents new growth opportunity as income levels continue to rise."
Poultry consumption is also on the rise in a country where religious considerations prohibit pork consumption by as much as 80% of the black population, according to the video profile. Jon Herbert, senior executive for food at Woolworth's, based in Cape Town, South Africa, noted "about 95% of the goods that hit our shelves come in ready made at one of our central meat plants. The balance is manufactured at the back for special customer requests."
The video profile noted that value-added meats are gaining in popularity in South Africa as income levels rise and free time falls.
To better merchandise these new options, Woolworth's Herbert said, he does a lot of cross merchandising in his stores. "We believe it's absolutely imperative that we bring other parts of our business into the meat area."
Malcolm Baxter, executive director of meat merchandising at Pick n' Pay, based in Cape Town, South Africa, said its meat departments are showcases for high-profile perishables departments.
"About 35% to 40% of the floor area, including the perimeter, is taken up by all those fresh-food areas, with the butchery being the focal point on the perimeter," said Baxter.
"What we need to do is to make sure that the business that we run remains very flexible in that we can switch on and adapt to consumer trends that change so in terms of food habits and eating habits as time goes by," see said.
And Woolworth's Herbert concluded "food is becoming a way of life in South Africa, and we've got to make sure that it's convenient."
Cryovac's Kaenzig pointed out that while retailers in emerging countries were discovering the demand for convenient meat products, "in developed countries, like the U.S., retailers are reacting to a revolution in meal delivery; that means pushing the envelope of creativity to provide variety, quality and convenience."
The next and last video profile examined the American retail perspective on the meat department.
"The aging population segment known as baby boomers is shaping many of the marketing opportunities in the meat industry. Their growing concerns about health translate into a desire for leaner cuts," noted the American video profile.
"They are looking to reward themselves with a higher level of food quality and sample an ever widening variety of cuisines," noted the profile.
John Story, senior director of meat and deli at Fairway Foods in Northfield, Minn., one of two American retailers profiled, said "consumer trends, long-term, are going to be into convenience, they're going to be into prepared foods, they're going to be into exotic types of meats. In other words, meals that maybe they can't produce themselves but that they would like to be able to produce."
Jim Ukrop, chief executive officer of Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., added "today, in most cases, mom is at work just like dad, and so they're looking for quick and easy meal solutions."
"And the consequence is that, meat-wise, we're going to have to change quite a lot of the old ways of doing business to be able to accommodate that situation," added Fairway's Story.
Ukrop noted his deli and prepared-food sales, in many stores, exceeded his meat sales.
Story said the future was bright for the meat industry and noted retailers were starting to recognize consumers have limited time both to shop and prepare what they buy.
One of the most significant changes he cited was that he was seeing "meat departments today changing into meal departments."
Story and Ukrop then went on to discuss how they thought imported products fit into the mix of a successful U.S. operation. "When someone presents us a new product, we're looking for advertising support, we're looking for promotional monies, demo monies. The best way to really sell product is to put product in people's mouths."
Fairway's Story stressed the growing role of imported products and said the amount he was importing was steadily increasing. "And what I would like to say to people who are exporting and importing here to this country would be that they provide the product with food-safety regulations the same as we have in this country."
Kaenzig stressed the importance of better marketing by focusing on customers' needs. "We need to first listen to what the customer wants and then tailor our products to fit that specific need."
Learning from the success stories of the retailers' presentation might entail "bringing executives to your country to show them how you process and package a quality product," said Kaenzig. "Or it may mean developing a special export catalog that describes and illustrates the different cuts and specifications of your product."
Such efforts, noted Kaenzig, require both time and money, but they possibly could reap big rewards.
"Even though only one-tenth of China's huge population is able to shop in a supermarket and purchase meat on a regular basis, that still represents 100 million potential customers," he noted.