CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Sales of U.S. T-bone steaks were recently launched by Lotte Mart, the third-largest retail chain in South Korea, at 85 locations throughout the country. This is the first time this cut has been offered in the retail sector since S. Korea resumed imports of U.S. beef.

“The reintroduction of T-bones really demonstrates the traction U.S. beef is regaining in Korea,” said Junil Park, U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) Korea retail specialist, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “Consumer acceptance of U.S. beef has become much more widespread as the result of positive imaging, aggressive promotion and U.S.M.E.F.’s collaborative efforts with suppliers, importers and retailers.”

Groundwork for this new product introduction started several months ago. With support from the Beef Checkoff Program, U.S.M.E.F. held a beef seminar in March for supermarket meat managers and retail meat buyers focused on the safety and quality of U.S. beef. U.S.M.E.F. also hosted nine representatives from Lotte Mart – chosen through a sales competition – to take a U.S. beef industry tour. During these events, Lotte Mart buyers and managers were encouraged to promote new U.S. beef cuts and expand the U.S. share of their imported beef section.

Lotte Mart also knew about the resurgence of premium-quality steaks in S. Korea’s high-end foodservice sector, and sees increasing potential for these cuts to perform well at the retail level as well.

As a result, Lotte Mart is not only featuring U.S. T-bones, but U.S. tenderloins and striploins, as well. Lotte Mart now carries six chilled U.S. beef cuts and eight frozen beef items, and dedicates 30% of its imported beef section to U.S. products.

“Lotte Mart will focus on increasing sales of T-bone steaks with consistent in-store promotions such as intensive tasting demonstration at high-demand outlets and distributing a steak recipe brochure to help consumers know how to prepare the product,” said Ji-young Yoon, Lotte Mart’s imported meat merchandiser.

Earlier in July over a four-day promotion at Lotte Mart, the chain sold U.S. T-bone steaks, ribeye rolls and striploins valued at more than $91,000 (110 million won), with 88% of those sales being T-bones. One customer who couldn’t find the T-bone steaks at his local Lotte Mart reported to store management he drove to a distant store just to buy the steaks, and thanked the store for providing him with cooking tips.

S. Korea has climbed to third place in 2010 U.S. beef export volume at 37,177 metric tons (nearly 82 million lbs.) and fourth place in terms of value at $162.8 million through May this year. This represents an increase of 66% in volume and 94% in value over last year’s pace. Based on more recent U.S.D.A./F.A.S. weekly export data, S. Korea has been importing U.S. beef at about the same level as Mexico, the U.S. beef industry’s No. 1 foreign market.