COVID-19 disrupted traditional ways of doing business in Japan and necessitated a whole new approach by the U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) to promoting U.S. dry beans. As the traditional market for U.S. dry beans as an ingredient for manufacturing bean paste declined sharply due to falling consumer demand during the pandemic, USDBC pivoted its programs to promote new classes and applications of U.S. dry beans unrelated to bean paste applications.
Two new varieties, U.S. dark red kidney beans and garbanzo beans, were promoted for the first time. Though largely unfamiliar to Japanese consumers, both U.S. dark red kidney beans and garbanzo beans have begun to achieve retail distribution at major supermarket chains in Japan. Responding to the changing consumer landscape and increased at-home consumption that resulted from the pandemic, USDBC appealed to consumers directly using Instagram and popular food influencers to promote new recipes and applications featuring U.S. dark red kidney beans and garbanzo beans. USDBC conducted a 60-minute Instagram video program featuring three recipes using U.S. dark red kidney beans and garbanzo beans that received over 100,000 views, and an additional fourteen recipes on 30-second Instagram Reels in December which received over 300,000 views.
Imports from the U.S. for the HS code containing U.S. kidney beans more than doubled in December 2021 to 223 MT compared to 101 MT the same month prior year, while imports of U.S. garbanzo beans increased to 101 MT versus 63 MT the previous year. Compared to the prior year, the dollar value of imported U.S. kidney beans in December 2021 increased 64.4% to $349,117 while that of U.S. garbanzo beans increased 129.2% to $134,899. Overall, for the three-month period following the implementation of the Instagram Reels, export volume for kidney beans increased 17.4% compared to the same period prior year, while that for garbanzo beans increased 33.9%. (Source: Trade Data Monitor)
60-minute Instagram live screen shots:
30-second Instagram Reel post campaign screen shots:
Going forward, USDBC plans to continue to support the expansion of new non-bean paste applications of U.S. dry beans in Japan. This will include additional campaigns to reach out to consumers to recommend exciting new recipes using U.S. dry beans while highlighting the excellent nutritional values that dry beans provide.