From a business standpoint, the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s decision to open its U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence this October in Singapore . . . in the heart of Southeast Asia . . . just may be coming at a perfect time. That’s because there are more people in the region poised to join the middle class than any other location in the world. Those consumers are looking to add high-quality proteins to their diets. That protein more often than not includes nutritious dairy products.
“This first of its kind investment for U.S. dairy farmers demonstrates the U.S. dairy industry’s deepening commitment to Southeast Asia,” said Ian Stewart, who serves as operations director for the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence, USDEC Singapore Ltd. That small nation is a business hub of Southeast Asia, and the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence will be the launch pad for creating Asian-style entrees with dairy.
A new No. 1?
While it’s true that Mexico has long been America’s top dairy export customer, our friends south of the border have been experiencing a slowing economy as of late. Due to that economic downturn, largely induced by the global health pandemic, Mexico’s dairy product purchases have been off 5% in the first eight months of the year. Even so, those sales still represent a rather robust $120 million through August.
At the same time, customers in Southeast Asia have been purchasing more and more U.S. dairy products. In fact, the region's sales largely composed of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam is poised to collectively become America’s top volume dairy customer for volume.
Through August, dairy product sales to Southeast Asia have totaled $102 million. That’s up a whopping 40%. Keep in mind that those U.S. dairy product sales do not include neighboring countries such as:
- China, with $55 million in dairy purchases, up 109%
- South Korea’s $31 million, up 36%
- Japan’s $26 million, up 37%
When totaled, that’s over $214 million in U.S. dairy product sales through August in the greater Asian region.
Grand virtual opening on October 21
Enter the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence (U.S. CDE).
“The U.S. CDE facility has a wide array of utilities and features,” explained Stewart via video comments about the center located in the heart of Singapore’s thriving business district. The U.S. CDE includes:
- Training and video conferencing rooms
- A sensory lab
- State-of-the-art demonstration kitchen
That sensory lab and demonstration kitchen wrap together the latest technology to set the stage for USDEC staff and food scientists/culinary consultants to create innovative foods and menus with U.S. dairy ingredients. To be clear, U.S. dairy products will be the ingredient in those meals, but the meals will definitely look more Asian in nature to appeal to the region’s taste palates.
“It’s exciting, the opening of the new U.S. CDE is a historic development for U.S. dairy in the region,” said Dalilah Ghazalay, who is USDEC’s regional director in Southeast Asia. “One that shows our deepening commitment. One that expands our ability to do more work in ideation and innovation with U.S. dairy ingredients and cheeses.”
Be there before, during, and after the sale
“The U.S. CDE is meant to be a home away from home for U.S. dairy suppliers where they can conduct business in the region,” added Stewart.
That’s an important take away for U.S. dairy farmers who help fund USDEC via the dairy checkoff. Marketing products is about relationships. People want to know the people behind the product and that the product is good.
Above all, customers want support.
“To successfully grow U.S. exports, it is so important to understand the consumers’ mindset,” shared Anoo Pothen via video comments. Pothen knows that firsthand as she serves as director of consumer insights for the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence, USDEC Singapore Ltd.
With the opening of the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence, USDEC and the U.S. dairy processors in the region can offer that support and create long-term, face-to-face relationships. The opening of this center also demonstrates U.S. dairy is committed to Southeast Asia for the long haul.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships,” confirmed Ghazalay.
Those relationships, both existing and new, will be nurtured at the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s new U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence in Singapore. For those dairy farmers who fund the dairy checkoff, that’s what may matter most of all, as the collective U.S. dairy industry looks to grow its international dairy product sales that currently account for all the milk produced one day each week by U.S. dairy cows.