A variety of U.S. dairy products are shipped around the world, but four categories — cheese, skim milk powder (SMP), whey products, and lactose — lead the way. These four categories accounted for 80 percent of the nation’s total dairy export value in 2015.

Cheese was the top export product based on dollars of product sold, followed closely by SMP. Coming in third was whey, with exports in November 2016 up 47 percent from the same month a year earlier.

According to U.S. Dairy Council’s latest monthly trade report, half of those whey sales went to China, jumping 147 percent over the year before. Sales to Southeast Asia, all of China’s neighbors, were also up 63 percent.

Moving forward, whey could become a rising star of the dairy export portfolio. The U.S. Dairy Council (USDEC) estimates global whey trade will grow 4.6 percent annually through 2021, generating 400,000 more metric tons of annual whey sales.

Kristi Saitama, vice president of export marketing ingredients for USDEC, identified three demographic groups that will drive this demand, both domestically and abroad:

Health-conscious adults
According to the United Nations, the number of people over the age of 65 worldwide will triple and reach 1.5 billion by 2050. Healthy aging-oriented foods and beverages, including whey, will be in demand in many parts of the world, according to Saitama.

Infants and toddlers
In countries like China, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia, there is much potential for growth in whey protein use in baby formula. Saitama explained that dairy protein plays an important role in overall childhood nutrition.

Middle-class fitness enthusiasts
There is more potential for whey protein in sports nutrition powders and energy/nutrition-type products geared toward the sports and fitness-focused consumer. Saitama pointed out that the benefits of whey protein consumption by athletes are well documented.

Plans are underway at some processing plants to invest in whey-making capabilities, and others are likely to follow suit to meet this growing demand. The U.S. is already the world’s leading exporter of whey proteins, and it appears there is more growth potential in our future.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2017
February 20, 2017

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