Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Culinary Foods Memo: Martin Yan: The Slapstick Apostle of Asian Foods to America and the Category's One-Man Mega-Sales Force

Long before Martha Stewart began appearing on television preparing her culinary dishes, which she always says are "A Good Thing," and way before the Food Network, where chef Emerile Lagasse gained fame with his food creations and his now famous "Bam, Bam" mantra, there was Martin Yan, Asian cuisine's food apostle to America, and a vitual one-man sales force for asian foods and ingredients in the United States. (Note: Martha Stewart bought Emeril's company for $50 -to- $70 million today.)

Yan, who was born and raised in China and came to the United States via Canada as a teenager, has been introducing American consumers to Asian cuisine on his PBS television show, "Yan Can Cook," for 30 years. In fact, this year marks his 30 year anniversary on PBS. He was the first Asian cooking show host to appear on American television.

Yan, a long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area who these days splits his time between the region and China where he's opened a culinary center and appears on his own cooking show on Chinese television, is know for his irreverent and often slapstick comedy approach to Asian cooking on his television show in the U.S.

He mixes jokes and animated behavior with Asian food ingredients as a way of teaching Asian cuisine in a simple and often humorous manner. Despite the fact many "serious" Asian foods' experts and chefs have criticized Yan's approach, it's worked well for him, PBS, American consumers, and Asian restaurants and supermarkets in America, that latter of which have seen the popularity of Asian foods and grocery products soar in their stores' since Yan started teaching the ways of Asian cuisine on TV thirty years ago.

Before Yan started explaining and teaching about Asian cuisine on his television programs, most Americans thought it consisted exclusively of fried rice, chow mein and cashew chicken. Thirty years later, most American's are familiar not only with an extensive menu of Chinese foods, but have a general understanding of the differences between Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

Although Yan can't take all of the credit for this phenomenon, he's owed partial credit based on his thirty years of TV cooking shows, 27 books on Asian cuisine, numerous personal appearances and cooking demonstations throughout the U.S., and other forms of public education on the foods of Asia.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle Food Section has a feature article about Martin Yan on his 30th anniversary of educating Americans' about Asian Cuisine. The piece, by staff writer Amanda Gold, also talks about Yan's coming full circle. Today he not only has a cooking show on American television, but has a very popular show on Chinese TV, which is watched regularly by 110 million Chinese. According to Yan, the Chinese get a kick out of an American (him) who has come to China to teach the Chinese about Chinese food.

Yan also has opened a cooking school, "Martin Yan's Culinary Arts Center," in the city of Shenzhen, China. He calls it his "retirement project." Yan says like it or not this in the China century, by way of explaining why he created both a cooking show on Chinese television and opened his culinary arts center in the world's most populus and fastest-growing nation.

American consumers and food retailers realized many years ago that indeed 'Yan Can Cook.' It also appears Chinese TV viewers and consumers are learning the same about their fellow countryman who left for the Unitied States 50 years ago and has now returned to spread his unique style of culinary knowledge.

The Year of The Rat: Chinese New Year 2008

This month is the Chinese New Year. The new year, the 'Year of the Rat,' began on February 7, and is celebrated throughout the month.
According to Chinese legend, "people born in the Year of the Rat are noted for there charm and attraction for the opposite sex. They work hard to achieve their goals, acquire possessions, and are likely to be perfectionists. They are basically thrifty with money. "Rat people" are easily angered and love to gossip. Their ambitions are big, and they usually are very successful. They are most compatible with people born in the years of the Dragon, Monkey, and Ox. "Learn more about Chinese New Year, 2008 and the Year of the Rat here, here and here.

'Yan Can Sell': An in-store Chinese New Year 2008 retail promotion we like

The Chinese New Year month of February, 2008 also is a time when Asian foods' manufacturers, importers and marketers, along with food retailers, conduct extensive Chinese foods promotions.

One such interesting retail promotion going on right now happens to include chef Martin Yan as its spokesperson and recipe development expert. Chinese import beer brand Tsingtao, along with U.S.-based gourmet Asian sauce and marinade company World Harbors, are conducting an in-store Chinese New Year promotion nationally in the U.S. The promotion features recipes create by chef Yan, using World Harbors' sauces and marinades and Tsingtao beer as the primary ingredients.
Recipe tear-off pads are located on point-of-purchase displays in-store, featuring World Harbor Asian sauces and marinades and Tsingtao imported Chinese beer. The cross-merchandising of the beer and sauces ties-in with the recipes on the display to create a complete Chinese meal solution for shoppers, in addition to consumers' having the opportuntiy to enter--and maybe win--an 11-day all expense paid trip for two to China.
The displays' feature sweepstakes tear-off pads in addition to the recipe pads. Among the highlights of the free China trip for the winners, include a full-day at chef Yan's Culinary Center in Shenzen. Yan will teach the winners how to cook various Chinese dishes as well as provide them with a day of education and immersion in Chinese cuisine.

Yan's recipes on the point-of-purchase displays also feature various ingredients--fresh produce, herbs, meats, seafood and more--from throughout the supermarket. We like this cross-merchandising promotion for a number of reasons:

First, It offers easy Chinese foods meal soulutions right at the point-of-purchase with Yan's recipes. The primary ingredients in all Yan's simple recipes are the World Harbor sauces and marinades and the Tsingtao beer. Shoppers choose a recipe or two at the display, grab the required amount of sauces, marinades and beer, then can pick up the other ingredients--meats, produce, ect.--as the continue their shopping trip.

This is great for shoppers who need easy ethnic meal solutions they can cook at home. It's also great for retailers as the promotion allows them to sell far more products than they normally would sell without the promotion. Additionally, since the recipes call for ingredients from throughout the store, the promotion also promotes sales of products in other categories besides just the beer and sauce/marinade items.

Second, the promotion combines an easy meal solution with a great sweepstakes giveaway. By adding the free 11-day trip to China as part of the promotion, the marketers' have included a "big bang" element to it. The chance to win such a trip will motivate shoppers to get emotionally--and commercially--involved in the promotion and thus purchase the promoted items far more so than if such a sweepstakes wasn't included in the promotion. This element is a major win-win for all invloved in the promotion--the marketers, consumers and retailers.

Third are what we call the unique and creative elements. We give the marketers an A grade for coming up with the combination of beer and the sauces and marinades to feature in the promotion. The product combination is creative and interesting--and will catch shoppers attention when they see the unique cross-merchandised items in the display at the point-of-purchase in the supermarket. Since beer is involved, male shoppers also should take notice more so than they normally would.

Lastly, but from from least, is the Martin Yan endorsement of the promotion. We give kudos to the marketers for thinking of Martin Yan as the spokesperson and featuring him in the promotion. As the San Francisco Chronicle article discusses, Yan's popularity is global, yet local. He's known by most American's from his 30 years on television, his books and personal appearances. He's liked as well. His involvment in and endorsement of the promotion is a big plus for its potential success--and for potential sales at retail. After all, we all know "Yan Can Sell," as well as cook.

No comments: