Airpork - Flying Pigs Land in Singapore

A 1998 livestock virus in Malaysia left a gaping hole in the pork market in Singapore, a country that relies solely on imports for its pork consumption. Into the gap stepped Australia, one of the world’s largest exporters of meat and livestock. Intent on being more than just a short-term solution, Australia’s pig farmers took the opportunity to brand its product and succeeded in making “Airpork” a household name. In this case study, Ulla Fionna and Professor Paddy Padmanabhan look ahead and ask what might be the next steps for this brand.

by Paddy Padmanabhan, Ulla Fionna
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

It would be hard to underestimate the success of Airpork in Singapore. The managing director of Australian Pork Limited (APL), a non-profit company that represents Australia’s pig producers, put it this way: “Cult status would be putting it too strongly, but we have built up a brand preference.” How Airpork, with its flying pig logo, went from virtually no market share to capture 95% of the chilled pork market in Singapore, is the topic of this Case Study by Research Associate Ulla Fionna and Professor of Marketing Paddy Padmanabhan.

Its isolated location has been both an advantage and disadvantage for Australia. Distance to trading partners has made international trade difficult, but it has also kept the country free of major cattle and livestock diseases. It is this very advantage that helped Australia make huge inroads in the pork market over the past five years. Although it factored among the world’s largest exporters of meat and livestock (in 2001, Australian beef accounted for 23% of the world’s total export and was the second-largest exporter of sheep meat in the world), Australia was not historically a strong player in the pork industry. That is until the late 1990s, when a major livestock virus struck a pig farm in Malaysia, prompting the Singaporean government to ban all pig imports from the country and look to other countries as a new source.

Australia was the benefactor of these events, and the country began immediately shipping pork to Singapore. At first the pork arrived with a plain “Aussie Pork” sticker, but the Confederation of Australian Pork Exporters (CAPE) felt that long-term viability of Australian pork required the development of a superior benefit proposition for the Singaporean consumers. APL invested S$4.26 million to study the Singaporean market and to develop and implement a strategy to ensure long-term viability. CAPE focused on all activities from “paddock to plate”, identifying a series of critical challenges in the supply chain between Australia and Singapore. CAPE members believed that failure to meet these standards, particularly given the circumstances surrounding the Malaysian virus, would lead to rejection by the retail community in Singapore.

In addition to quality and health standards, the group oversaw the development of a logo and a massive advertising campaign. They chose the name Airpork and a logo featuring a plump flying pig with the words “Healthier, More Nutritious” in an effort to communicate that the key to the pork’s freshness was that it was air-freighted into Singapore daily. An advertising campaign started in May 2001 with ads on television, newspapers, magazines, and buses.

Dubbed a “story born out of disaster”, the brand proved to be a massive success in replacing imports from Malaysia. From A$200,000 before the Nipah virus, the sale of Australian pork shot up to A$113 million in 2001. Singapore now represents the largest importer of Australian pork, at 54% share.

With this first stage behind them, CAPE is looking to consolidate its market in Singapore, as well as expand its reach in the country. The authors ask us to consider the advantages Airpork currently has and what potential hurdles it may face in the future.

Used in marketing management courses at the MBA level and with executives, this Case Study offers a view of the complexities of new product development and brand development in a crisis situation.


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