Making the world smaller
December 19, 2016
The Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand's International Masters of Brand Advantages (IMBA) program is all about the "aha!" moments. One after another. At the ranch, the feedyard, the packing plant, CAB's own Education & Culinary Center. It's about making concepts click and connections that last.
Spun off of a long-running program that takes classes of U.S.-based beef marketers on a unique pasture-to-plate journey, this version lasts one week instead of three, and is comprised of center-of-the-plate specialists from outside the United States.
CAB President John Stika says events like the Texas-oriented IMBA in November – with 25 students from 12 countries — are vital to the global success of high-quality beef.
"From a brand standpoint, with an increase in volume of our product going into international markets, the value of those sales is only maximized when the level of understanding and education about the product itself, the brand and the process, grows, too," Stika says.
“We’re all people who care about where our food comes from, how it tastes and that it’s good for us. They have the same questions as anybody would. They want to make sure the animals are treated well, and meet the people who are responsible for their care.Kara Lee, CAB supply programs manager
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CAB partners are expected to engage with customers in a similar way, no matter where in the world they are, but distance can make it challenging.
"You can't do that via conference call," Stika says. "You can't do that via PowerPoint presentation. It really takes an experiential-based approach for someone to truly understand why this product is surrounded by such a high level of passion from all segments of the business. That's what takes a product and makes it a brand."
The global marketplace is increasingly competitive in the world of branded and quality beef, he says, and continued growth will require an educated, engaged and passionate sales force representing the brand.
A Lone Star State of mind
The week started in Amarillo, Texas, where participants got an in-depth look at the beef cattle lifecycle.
Kara Lee, CAB supply programs manager, says the Texas Panhandle setting let the class see every facet of the beef community in one outing.
"We had the opportunity to visit with seedstock producers, who explained the decisions they make in terms of genetics and how that impacts consumer eating quality. We can visit the feedyards responsible for managing those cattle right up to their end point, and then tour the packing plant that ultimately puts that beef in the box for the customer," she says.
In just two days' time, they visited the Bradley 3 Ranch near Memphis, Texas, Amarillo Livestock Auction, Randall County Feedyard and Tyson Amarillo.
Lee says while the language barrier and cultural differences can bring challenges to events like this, the class was not that different from its domestic counterparts.
"We're all people who care about where our food comes from, how it tastes and that it's good for us," she says. "They have the same questions as anybody would. They want to make sure the animals are treated well, and meet the people who are responsible for their care. There's some personal connection for them, too — everybody loves getting their picture taken with the guy in the cowboy hat. At the end of the day, it's very cool for them to have the chance to meet the cattlemen and women who are putting meat on the plate."
Back at HQ
Mid-week, the class travelled to Wooster, Ohio, where they focused on beef fabrication, learning beef cuts, how to use the knowledge they gained to overcome sales objections and the many marketing resources available through the brand.
Geof Bednar, CAB director of international, says having distributor partners engage at the corporate campus provides an experience that greatly increases their understanding of the resources developed to empower them.
"This ultimately allows our brand partners to head back home better prepared and confident they can be a restaurant's first choice as a supplier of food products and specifically the Certified Angus Beef brand," Bednar says.
This year's class was talented and passionate about what they do. Each was eager to learn, their enthusiasm so contagious the event was a rousing success.
"All left with new friendships and a renewed understanding that their contribution is meaningful," Bednar says.
"When you start meeting people from different parts of the world, it makes it a lot smaller. It's easier to collaborate with people you've met. It's easier to understand perspectives when you've visited directly with them."
U.S. cattle producers think of other countries as export markets, but there's more to the picture.
"What comes out of an event like this," Stika says, "is we're reminded not to think of Japan as a market that is a long way away, but instead as a group of people we have relationships with. People who value the same things about quality beef as we do. The same goes for Mexico, Kuwait and every other country. International markets are full of people, just like domestic markets are."
He says it's about finding the things that put us on the same page and that get us pulling in the same direction.
"That's no different than what we do in Des Moines, L.A., New York or Houston," Stika says. "It takes a little more logistic planning to make it happen, but the approach is the same. The relationships you create are the same, it's some of them just require an interpreter."
– Certified Angus Beef