Consul General Kurt Tong and his wife, Mika Marumoto.

Dairy farmers and cheesemakers from across America put a great deal of care into producing some of the world’s best cheeses.

That’s just part of the equation. It takes talented marketing specialists at home and abroad to sell that cheese to discerning consumers.

If you’re on the farm struggling to make ends meet these days, have confidence in knowing the staffers at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, U.S. cheese exporters, and government leadership are working as hard as ever to create sales for U.S. cheese.

One such cheese showcase took place in Hong Kong when Consul General Kurt Tong and his wife, Mika Marumoto, opened their home and dedicated a full evening to showcase U.S. cheese to importers, restaurateurs, and hotel food buyers. Adding to the ambiance was a breath-taking view of Hong Kong’s harbor from the windows of the Consul General’s home.

An annual event
“This is the third year running that we have been promoting American artisanal cheese in Hong Kong using a venue like this and giving everyone the chance to see the beauty of the product,” said Consul General Tong.

“The Hong Kong market is one that others look to from around the (Asia) region as a leader,” said Tong, who grew up in Massachusetts and speaks fluent Mandarin and Japanese.

“You can see that in the fact that American cheese exports are growing very rapidly in Hong Kong. Last year we achieved 18 percent growth. Kudos to everyone involved in that!” said Tong at the cheese reception co-sponsored with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

“That’s a pretty impressive number,” he went on to say. “Those numbers have to do with the quality of the U.S. product,” said Tong, who has served the U.S. government in China, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. “The American product is delicious, diverse, there’s a lot of variety, a lot of quality, and a lot of real care and craftsmanship put into it,” said the well-versed Consul General Tong.

“I encourage you to use this event to try something new and to try out some tastes that you haven’t tried before. Then, expand your scope of American cheese purchases going forward,” he said with a smile to the audience of nearly 100 cheese connoisseurs, who were buying for restaurants, hotels, and retailers.

A strong cheese heritage
“The U.S. is a country of immigrants,” said Angélique Hollister, vice president of cheese marketing at USDEC. “We have people that came here a long time ago from countries throughout Europe.

“The advantage of the U.S. cheese industry is that we make cheese from everywhere . . . we are a melting pot. Plus, our U.S. cheesemakers are very creative, very innovative, and very passionate,” said the French native who has worked on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers for 19 years.

“Because of those attributes, we have American Originals that are pure creations from the minds of U.S. cheesemakers. The U.S. is a one-stop shop for specialty cheese from European-styles, Mexican creations, and American Originals,” said Hollister.

More: Can dairy deliver to high-end customers?

“A lot of our cheese industry was fueled by immigrants. But those immigrants had to operate in different ways and become more innovative,” said Ross Christieson, senior vice president of cheese marketing with USDEC. “It also helped that those immigrants were not tied up by the rules in Europe that dictated cheesemaking for generations,” added the lifelong dairy product marketer.

“When cheesemakers came to the U.S., they had new markets and new customers,” he concluded, adding that this set of circumstances makes U.S. cheese the most diverse in the world. “Those cheese creations continue to develop.”

To read more about the USDEC trade mission to Japan and Hong Kong, read “Curves and whey bring U.S. dairy to Japan.”

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2019
January 21, 2019
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