Brand names are of increasing importance to global consumers looking for quality and consistency. Small U.S. meat companies, however, have an uphill battle promoting their brand names to international buyers. The USDA's Branded Products Promotion Program - the red-meat portion of which is administered through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) - has had success in helping small companies gain entry and establish the identity of their branded products in international markets.

Companies participating in the USMEF Branded Products Promotion Program use their own money, leveraged with matching funds from the branded products program, to develop export markets for their red-meat products. The 16 companies involved in the 2009 program exported pork and beef to markets that included Mexico, Japan and Europe and reported sales of almost $23.7 million (final figures for 2010 are not yet available.) In doing so, the companies exceeded their 2008 sales by nearly $2.5 million despite a very tough economic climate.

Participation in the program is limited to small companies as defined by the Small Business Administration, i.e., eligible companies with 500 or fewer employees. Producer cooperatives and associations also are eligible.

Funds from this program can help companies conduct a variety of activities in international markets, including:

  • Attend trade fairs and exhibits, including U.S. domestic trade shows with large international attendance
  • Offset costs of promotional materials used in connection with a promotion
  • Help pay for costs of retail promotions, including fees for chefs, costumes, signs, displays and demonstration staff
  • Help cover the cost of seminars, including interpreters, seminar materials, set-up costs/room rental, slides and production
  • Translate educational materials such as company brochures and product sheets
  • Conduct retail and HRI promotions

USMEF is now accepting applications for its FY11 fiscal year from U.S. companies interested in receiving matching funds to promote their branded U.S. red meat products in international markets.

  • Promotions funded under this program must be conducted between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. Applications will be accepted as long as funds are available.
  • Companies that receive funding from USMEF will be charged a 5% administrative fee for participation in the program. The fee is 5% of USMEF's financial contribution to the activity budget.
  • USMEF requires a $100 submittal fee to accompany the company's request for funding. If the company completes the contracting process, these funds will be applied toward the 5% administrative fee.

The branded program is a small part of the larger coordinated USMEF effort that includes generic funding from USDA's Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs, private industry funds and funding from the beef, pork, corn and soybean checkoffs to promote foreign sales of U.S. red meat.

Companies interested in the program should contact Barbara Watson at the USMEF Denver office - (303) 623-6328 - or by e-mail at bwatson@usmef.org for guidelines and proposal format.