'Ham' burger a success in S. Korea debut

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER — Anyone passing through South Korea can now discover what a real "ham" burger tastes like by stopping at a GS25 convenience store for a burger made with 100% U.S. pork, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Operating 3,900 outlets, GS25 is the second-largest convenience store chain in South Korea.

In August 2009, parent company CVS sent representatives to the U.S. as part of a "Pork Business Development Team" led by U.S.M.E.F. As a result of that initiative, "John’s Burger" was developed — a new convenience-food item targeted at 20- to-30 year-old office workers in search of a quick and affordable lunch at GS25 stores.

"Since we engaged in this initiative and took an in-depth tour of U.S. pork plants, it gave me crystal-clear confidence in why we should procure pork patties from the United States," said Hee-hun Han, Retail Daily Food Merchandising Team assistant manager for GS retail stores.

U.S.M.E.F. relays this marks the first time GS25 has launched a premium burger targeted at its price-sensitive clientele. The new John’s Burger is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 1,600 Korean won ($0.86 to $1.38 at current exchange rates) more than any other burgers sold by GS25, but that didn’t diminish the positive consumer response to the new offering.

During a recent four-day promotion that covered a weekend, the GS25 chain sold an average of 3,522 of the new sandwiches per day at a limited number of stores, even though two of the days fell on the weekend when there were fewer office workers. With support from the Pork Checkoff, U.S.M.E.F. partnered with GS25 and D&J Biz, a U.S. pork patty importer, to share costs for in-store displays and a free beverage with purchase of a John’s Burger during the promotion.

The introduction of the John’s Burger was quite successful at the beginning stage, according to sources, who add sales exceeded expectations.

"We are encouraged by the reception to a premium-priced U.S. pork sandwich among customers who are typically very cost-sensitive," said J.R. Lee, marketing manager for U.S.M.E.F.-Korea. "We will continue to aggressively work with the convenience store channel here in Korea and believe that, over time, other convenience store chains will see the success of this product and it will lead to more opportunities for U.S. pork sales here."

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