by Fernando Herrera
La Nación- El Campo
Saturday, May 24, 1997
Opening up markets: In search of new markets, a group of exporter-producers ship chilled products to France.
Argentine exports of Hilton high quality meat have mainly been oriented to Germany for several years. In this country, Argentine meat is bought at considerable volumes, is highly appreciated by consumers and has a place of its own in chains of restaurants and grills.
This good image plus a position as a synonym for quality enabled our country to keep steady sales volumes during the mad-cow disease crisis in spite of the marked general drop in beef consumption. However, this situation is not common to other European countries.
In France, for instance, Argentine meat shipments were historically restricted to frozen beef cuts, little differentiated and thus, of a lesser value than those included in the Hilton quota.
The group of livestock exporter-producers known as ≥Carnes de Praderas≤ (Prairie Meat) perceived this situation and decided to develop the Argentine chilled meat business in France as part of its policy of seeking new markets.
The first market survey disclosed both positive and negative aspects. Among the positive, high per capita meat consumption and a recognized gastronomic tradition, and among the negative, ignorance about the Argentine chilled beef cuts and a pronounced preference of the French for their national products.
The next move was the creation of an alliance with Carnar French company and the distribution of marked cuts shipped by plane from Argentina.
By means of a home delivery service system, a direct contact could be established with individual consumers, who were supplied with information tending to guarantee the quality and origin of the meat. Acceptance was immediately achieved and this led to a steady sales increase.
A promotion program was developed at the same time that the product was being introduced, undoubtedly becoming one of the pillars of the success achieved. Working together, both companies took part in the Gastronomy Saveurs Salon and in the Printemps Bourges Festival, which gathered a public with a great expertise in culinary matters.
Similarly, it is also worth mentioning the Argentine beef-tasting events held with the support of the Argentine embassy in Paris and attended by renowned representatives of the French gastronomy press.
These media were invited in their capacity of opinion-leaders who exert their influence on the food purchase decisions of an important part of French society. Their gastronomy tips have legions of followers throughout magazines, books, newspapers supplements, radio and television programs.
During these events, the attending journalists had the chance to taste, surely for the first time in their lives, different meat cuts grilled on charcoal in the Argentine manner.
On the other hand, the distribution of printed material about our country and the meat production systems, as well as the projection of videos, contributed to the creation of a positive association between the product, the origin and the quality, a decisive attribute in the present-day globalized economy.
Thus, out of a specific economic effort, Argentine meat achieved a degree of media presence which could not even have been imagined until recently. Public response was evident in the inquiries from consumers, who, usually worried about the origin and quality of food, showed curiosity and at the same time excitement about this product coming from animals fed on pastures in the far-off lands of the ≥Argentine Pampas≤. Nowadays, after having achieved the initial product positioning, the range of meat cuts offered has been enlarged and different aspects related to the packaging (size of the cuts, sliced cuts, fat contents) are being studied in an attempt to get closer to consumer preferences.
The results achieved in such a competitive environment as the French market are auspicious and they encourage to get on with the challenge of reaching new destinations. To that effect, there is work being done jointly with the Argentine embassy in Norway for the organization of activities to promote our meat in that country.
A final thought: now that the so much expected opening up of the North American market for Argentine chilled meat seems to have arrived, the option of selling high-value cuts, at least in proportion to the quota assigned, will rely on the dissemination and promotion efforts which our country is ready to make.