By Holly Cook
Central and South American markets are a vital piece of the U.S. pork export picture and represent significant growth opportunities for the industry. Representatives from the National Pork Board had the opportunity to explore the priorities of these markets and meet with key industry members recently at the Latin American Product Showcase, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The showcase is an annual event, hosted by the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Attendees represented over 23 countries and included packers, distributors, import/export companies, producers and government representatives.
The two-day event consisted of importer and exporter networking events and industry speakers. Attendees heard from Josué Merced-Reyes of Inter-E-marketing on the importance of marketing to millennial and Gen Z families as well as Maggie O’Quinn of Midan Marketing on how emerging alternative meat products present future opportunities for the U.S. meat industry. National Pork Board attendees also participated in a market retail tour by visiting three meat retailers of various sizes.
National Pork Board attendees included Norman Bessac, vice president of International Marketing, Brady Reicks of Reicks View Farms, Lincoln Langhorst of Wakefield Pork and me (Holly Cook, International Marketing Intern). While our group shared an objective of representing U.S. pork and sharing its story, each attendee had slightly different takeaways from the event.
As a U.S. territory, many familiar brands were present in Puerto Rican supermarket meat cases. However, some products and cuts featured in Puerto Rico are not typically available from large commercial retailers in the U.S. Our group also noticed country of origin labeling on all meat products which lets consumers know whether their pork was raised in the U.S., Canada or domestically.
Minnesota pork producer, Lincoln Langhorst gained a new understanding and appreciation for the export process. “It was quite an eye-opener on how dynamic it can be getting the product in the hands of the end consumer. Many different companies work together to bring pork from places like Iowa and Minnesota to Latin America.”
While at the showcase, Lincoln also visited with a buyer from Econo, one of the largest pork buyers in Puerto Rico. Both parties found this interaction very beneficial, as Econo sources pork from the same company where Lincoln’s farm sells its pigs.
With 37 years of experience in the international pork business, attending the Latin American Product Showcase allowed Norman Bessac to reconnect with past business partners. It was not Norman’s first time attending the event, but the first time attending as a representative for all U.S. pork. Norman enjoyed meeting with both importers and exporters while discussing the strengths and opportunities facing the U.S. industry. Trading companies were eager to share feedback received from their customers regarding pig size preference and most popular cuts.
After my first six weeks as an International Marketing intern, this trip was an excellent way for me to see firsthand how international business relationships are formed. While I have researched several Latin American markets, this event helped me to better understand the needs and priorities of these customers.
Being present at the showcase also confirmed what I had read about the importance of relationship building and personal connections in Latin American business. This event allowed importers and exporters to engage in several structured sessions as well as less formal dinners and receptions. It was eye-opening to see how many parties are involved in getting U.S. pork from the farm to its export customers.
As reported by many USDA Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) reports and observed at the showcase, U.S. pork has earned a reputation for being a safe, high quality and delicious product for Central and South American consumers. By continuing to build relationships in Latin America and sharing the U.S. pork story, demand for U.S. products has great potential to grow. reports and observed at the showcase, U.S. pork has earned a reputation for being a safe, high quality, and delicious product for Central and South American consumers. By continuing to build relationships in Latin America and telling the U.S. pork story, demand for U.S. products has great potential to grow.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) assists with these efforts by incorporating U.S. pork into Latin American cuisine and representing the interests of the U.S. industry in these markets. USMEF also works to diversify the use of pork and pork products in export markets around the world. The Latin American Product Showcase provided an excellent opportunity for pork trade stakeholders to make connections, receive industry updates and fulfill a critical part of the U.S. pork export process.