Recipe Contest Goal: Put More U.S. Pork on Korean Catering Menus

Taking an innovative approach to getting more U.S. pork into South Korea’s institutional catering sector, USMEF partnered with a major food distributor in Seoul to conduct a catering recipe contest and a U.S. pork sales competition. The promotion with CJ Freshway was funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Pork Checkoff.


Freshway supplies food items to restaurants, hotels and foodservice companies. It also provides contract meal services through approximately 450 public dining facilities at business sites, office buildings, hospitals, golf clubs, food courts and schools.

Because of the growth in Korea’s catering services, potential for U.S. pork – especially cuts like Boston butt – is promising, said Jihae Yang, USMEF director in South Korea.

“Korea’s institutional catering market has gradually increased because an economic slowdown encouraged workers to frequent company-provided cafeterias for low-cost meals,” Yang explained. “This sector continues to grow, but the use of U.S. pork has been limited, mainly because most Korean catering companies are using lower-priced frozen domestic pork cuts and frozen items from the European Union.

According to Yang, the main pork products used in the market’s catering sector are domestic hams and European picnics.

“A typical Korean meal at an institutional restaurant consists of a bowl of rice, soup or stew and a couple of side dishes,” said Yang. “Pork is mainly served as marinated pork like in pork bulgogi or as a fried cutlet like tonkatsu. USMEF is working to increase the presence of U.S. pork on these menus. We see the Boston butt as a good alternative to what these companies are currently using.”

The U.S. Pork Catering Recipe Contest kicked off the promotion and comprised 93 teams of nutritionists and cooks from participating companies. The final competition at the Cooking Academy inside CJ Freshway headquarters featured the top 10 teams preparing U.S. pork dishes that could be directly applied to their businesses in presentation, cost control, consistency and suitability for a large-scale meal service.

U.S. pork farm-to-table information was given to the participants, and CJ Freshway staff evaluated the recipes at tasting sessions.

The second part of the promotion, a U.S. pork sales competition, was judged on purchase volume growth compared to the prior month. Bonus points were given for first-time sales of U.S. pork Boston butt.

2018-02-Korea-2.jpg“Despite an incidental price increase for U.S. Boston butt and the typical December school vacation time coinciding with the promotional period, participating companies did very well, matching the previous month’s sales totals,” said Yang. “More importantly, 25 new restaurants purchased U.S. pork for the first time. We plan to conduct a similar promotion when schools are in session and offices are running normally, to see if we can push the numbers even higher.”