It offered a ‘children’s steak’ in this range and has also been promoting a pack of ‘fei niu’ or fatty beef for the hot pot home cooking market.
This appears to be an interesting shift from the company’s traditional policy of selling domestic beef. Having invested massively in plants in Tongliao in Inner Mongolia and in Nanyang, in populous central China, Kerchin has apparently been going for the import market rather than competing against imports.
The company has long stressed the domestic, grassland origins of its beef, but has recently promoted the Australian origins of its product with the specially packaged ‘Family’ series of Australian steaks pushed heavily in the run-up to Chinese New Year, celebrated this week. Selling at an average RMB129 per 150g pack (each containing two pieces of meat) the steaks have also been marketed via leading online retailers and in Kerchin-run stores as New Year gifts. In a sign of the improved cold chain logistical capabilities of Chinese dispatch firms, Kerchin has promised delivery to every corner of China, but did place a deadline of 1 February for orders to the furthest-flung regions like Qinghai and Yunnan.
The steaks are clearly a premium sell; Kerchin has also been selling 600g packs of Chinese beef slices for hot pot and other traditional dishes at the cheaper rate of RMB69.90. The company has been providing recipe booklets in its stores, giving clear instructions on how to cook the domestic and imported beef, and has also given assurances to consumers of the safety of its beef: the firm controls a “whole industry chain” from feedlots to fork, stressed the company’s marketing literature.
Kerchin has not been the only firm using health and child development attributes to market beef to Chinese families. Another, Bi Fu Jia Ren – also known in English as ‘Beef & Family’ – is a brand of Australian beef operated by Tianjin-based Zhong He Ao Ya Enterprise Co, which has been offering a large range of steaks for the Chinese New Year market. It has been selling a “children’s steak” for RMB128, with delivery by logistics firm Shunfeng Express.
Few firms are as well placed to handle beef as Kerchin, which purchased a Banss slaughter line and a Marel processing line for its Tongliao plant. But the firm, which breeds half its cattle and buys the other from local farmers, has long struggled to use its plants to maximum capacity. Kerchin has therefore processed imported beef carcases to satisfy growing Chinese demand for beef. China imported 688,557 tons of frozen beef in 2017, up from 295,017 tons of frozen beef in 2014 – and 60,524 tons in 2012.
Company president Li He has made much of Kerchin’s marketing capabilities and has sought to tap into demand in the affluent youth market with attractively packaged convenience snacks. In 2016, Kerchin redesigned packaging on its beef jerky series and rolled the range out on top e-commerce portals Tmall and Jd.com. Much better known than smaller rivals, Kerchin sells 400g packs in new youth-themed packaging with eye-catching colours and artwork for RMB99 per pack.