Know the Culture, Get Results

Taking some time to understand your audience can go a long way when you’re doing market research.

BC Association of Cattle Feeders recently gleaned valuable market information from owners of high-end Chinese restaurants by understanding the culture, speaking their language and using a value-chain approach.

In Chinese culture, the dynamics of trust and loyalty in relationships and personal networks are very important.  Before getting started, the research team built relationships with individuals in their target demographic.

The principal investigator, Dr. Warveni Jap of the office of Research, Innovation & Graduate Studies at Thompson River University, started with a list of 20 personal connections who were well-established professionals in the Vancouver and Richmond Chinese community.

Dr. Jap asked these 20 individuals to pass on information about the project to their network of potential participants who were managers, head chefs and owners of Chinese restaurants and meat distributors in the Lower Mainland.  Once the participants agreed, the researchers made appointments to interview them at their places of business.

“Because we recognized that English was not the first language of most of our participants, we made sure our interviewers spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese,” observes Gillian Watt, Project Manager. “We didn’t want language to be a barrier in learning about their beef requirements.”

The researchers used a semi-structured personal interview approach which allowed the participants to describe some of their experiences buying, preparing and serving beef.

“Using a structured survey would have limited us in identifying some important value chain opportunities,” continues Watt.  “The value chain approach involves customizing products and services to meet the customer’s needs, rather than producing traditional commodities with little or no input from customers.”

The research concluded that owners of high-end Chinese restaurants would be willing to pay more for a higher quality beef.

“We learned that with some relatively small changes, such as adding Chinese language to our marketing materials and changing package sizing, we could make a big impact,” concludes Bill Freding, President of the BC Association of Cattle Feeders. “The Chinese market in Vancouver and Richmond has tremendous potential for certified BC beef.”

Funding:  $90,250 through the federal-provincial Ranching Task Force Funding Initiative. (RTF011)