Mr. Rob Meijer, President of Canada Beef, tells VET's Hoang Thu about its effort in bringing more Canadian beef to Vietnam.
■ Can you tell us Canada’s beef exports to Vietnam in recent times? Have you seen a rising number of Canadian businesses expressing an interest in exporting beef to the country?
Canada’s relationship with Asia is deeply rooted in history. Many countries in Southeast Asia are increasingly evolving their lifestyle demands and choices. As the world becomes more global, consumers are also reflecting on and encouraging retail, restaurants, food service and hotels to bring global diversity.
Canada’s overall trade and volume of beef exports to Vietnam is relatively small compared to other proteins. The Canadian beef industry is much more focused on building loyalty towards the Canadian beef brand and gaining trust in and respect for our beef producer’s efforts over securing market share. We want to be known and valued for our quality, tenderness, taste, attention to detail, and consistency. This includes food safety. Canada has a number of beef exporters that are very committed to growing our relationship with Vietnam. We intend to form partnerships with retailers and with the food service industry and others to ensure they have a reliable supply of Canadian beef at a value they feel confident with, given the world class advantages of Canadian beef.
Our federal government, especially our Minister of Agriculture, the Honorable Gerry Ritz, and our trade commissioners are highly committed to Vietnam. Moreover, their support to Canada Beef through its unique Branding Series program helped connect and educate consumers and the public about Canadian beef, our industry, and our farmers.
Given this collaboration between government, industry, and our two nations, we can expect Canadian beef to grow year-over-year.
■ What are the major challenges facing beef exporters to Vietnam?
As mentioned, our relationship is still relatively new and it is our commitment as Canada Beef to connect with consumers to provide them with information and education to help them make informed decisions when buying beef. It will take time to earn the trust of importers, retailers, food services, and other segments of the marketplace.
We have started these efforts and will not simply be promoting our beef. We want to ensure consumers and the public come to trust the way we produce our beef for their enjoyment, health and nutrition. Therefore, we are working slowly to create a long-term sustainable relationship with the marketplace. It is highly critical for us that we earn our business and not become known as an unreliable or inconsistent supplier. We want to be valued as world class.
■ Beef imports from Australia and the US are very popular in Vietnam. How will Canada Beef compete with products from these countries to attract more Vietnamese consumers?
As I mentioned, it is not market share that concerns us when we work to create our market partnerships. Canada is not a commodity or volume exporter to any country in the world. Our beef protein is built on a brand promise that assures consumers superior quality, tenderness, taste, consistency, flavor, and culinary excellence. It is easy to prepare and enjoy.
We are not in competition with other countries. Rather, we want to grow our market relationships day-by-day built on value and trust with our loyal partners and help them satisfy an evolving consumer. We know consumers care about sustainability, animal health and wellness, and food safety, and so do we. In telling our story and showing our industry through openness and transparency, the market will see that Canadian beef offers what we call the Canadian Beef Advantage!
■ What activities and plans to promote Canadian beef in Vietnam have you conducted recently and what will be done in the time to come?
We will be very active in the market throughout the year with brand-focused events at retail outlets, hotels, culinary outlets, and other partner-based channels, all with a focus on the consumer as much as possible. We are keen on partnering with the Embassy of Canada in the upcoming annual Canadian Food Festival to be held in November in Ho Chi Minh City.
We are also contemplating Gourmet Dinners with chefs from top restaurants and hotels and are collaborating with the Canadian Embassy and its Facebook page (facebook.com/CanadaVietnam) as a means of connecting with the public and raising the profile of Canadian food, including Canadian beef, among young and dynamic consumers.
What’s more, we will be hosting select partners in the commercial marketplace to visit Canada and come to the Canadian Beef Center of Excellence (CBCE) to be trained in our industry practices, production, and culinary beef applications.
Canada Beef is a cattle producer-funded and run organization responsible for the development of the domestic and international beef and veal markets. It has offices in Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Canada Beef works to foster loyalty towards the Canadian beef brand and build strong relationships with brand partners. These efforts increase demand for Canadian beef and the value producers receive for their cattle.