[Brian's Stuff]Local consumers’ beef with beef: a trend that rocked a nation

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[Brian's Stuff]Local consumers’ beef with beef: a trend that rocked a nation

Double-digit growth for every single year since its introduction to this country in 1996.

A net profit of about 3 billion won ($2.9 million) last year.

Three more stores slated to open within this year, bringing up the total number of stores to 14, including duty-free shops.

These are facts any business owner would love to have for his enterprise.

In this case, they represent Tiffany & Co. Korea. Is it the little blue box that has captivated the imagination of every female in town? The growing wealth of the population Probably both.

What amazes me is that Tiffany has increased its market share since it opened its first store here. Not every foreign brand can say the same.

For instance, Guess jeans were once considered premium jeans, the must-have clothes to wear at the trendy night scene in the early to mid-1990s.

Today, jeans brands like True Religion have taken over that role, becoming mass luxury items, so that other brands now are also on the rise

This makes you wonder what the magic formula is that will sustain a brand’s reputation over a long period of time.

Or maybe for eternity, the ultimate dream of any marketer.

There is no doubt that once firmly established, especially abroad, a brand can be pretty successful here. In a country that is one of the most wired on earth, brand information spreads quickly. This is not the 1980s when you could sell Gap T-shirts at five times the original price.

Which brings me to a touchy subject that has been dominating the news here for the past month. What about U.S. beef older than 30 months or U.S. beef in general?

Before the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003, South Korea was the third-largest U.S. beef consumer, including beef older than 30 months of age.

Whether it was the cheap prices, taste or quality, people ate U.S. beef without a second thought. The U.S. Meat Export Federation thinks those golden days will return once again when the beef market reopens.

For me, the probability of getting vCJC, the human variant of mad cow disease, is an acceptable risk.

One that I would not think about twice when buying my next steak of U.S. beef.

Samyang Food was hit hard in the 1980s for controversially using industrial oil in its ramyeon.

Today, the firm still does the same business (without the oil).

Granted it would be hard to find a similar case in which concerns over food safety could be elevated to the level we witnessed recently ? it seems that the whole nation has erupted. But people forget.

As long as there is no mad cow disease here the matter will be closed soon enough.

Cigarettes come to mind. They are a hazardous product that command strong consumer loyalty, despite known health risks.

Surely, beef stands in an entirely different league.

Whatever the conditions needed to resume the import of U.S. beef, it will be interesting to see what choices consumers make.

It could herald a return to the old days or mark the rise of Australian or New Zealand beef that has filled the vacuum and grown its hold in the market, as some consumers are willing to pay more and are reluctant to change to a product they no longer view as the same when it was bought without a thought.

If that is the case, U.S. beef will become like Guess jeans: A product that sells but nowhere near its height.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a case worth studying.

By Brian Lee Staff Reporter [africanu@joongang.co.kr]
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