Ever had a cheese tea? It’s just one example of the importance of innovation of dairy products around the world according to Vikki Nicholson-West, who serves as the senior vice president of Global Ingredients Marketing for the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

During the October 27 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream sponsored by Cargill, Nicholson-West described the drink that is composed of hot tea that is topped with a foam. That foam actually consists of a mixture of cream cheese and skim milk powder that gives the drink it’s signature name – cheese tea.

While this drink may not appeal to all, it has been hugely popular in Asian countries that are an important export market for the United States dairy industry, and it speaks to the innovation in and opportunity for dairy in those areas.

“We actually work with universities and their food science departments on understanding dairy ingredients and how they can make foods with those,” Nicholson-West said of USDEC’s efforts to spur innovation that matches cultural preferences in Asia. “We tell the students the basics – how it works, flavor profile, and the different things we might do with it. Then we let them loose with it, and they come back with some of the most innovative products and ideas on how to use whey protein, permeate, or milk powder, for example.”

Perception matters

“Several years ago when I was first in China, the chef at the place where we were staying had been told that the previous folks from America did not prefer the Chinese breakfast that was there, so the chef should make an American breakfast for us,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mark Stephenson said of one of his experiences eating internationally. “They brought out the stuff that was the most bizarre collection of things that I had seen, but this was their perception of what an American would want to eat.”

This story provided a pertinent analogy for how U.S. dairy sometimes approaches export sales, according to Stephenson. Too often, we bring products or ingredients we think they would want rather than ascertaining what they actually want and need.

“We need to truly understand what they want,” he continued. “We need to understand that we don’t need to make them into us. We need to provide them with the things that they would like to eat and present them in a way that they would like to have them presented.”

When our dairy ingredients can be part of these solutions, it offers dairy an opportunity to not only be part of that culture, but also to innovate in a way not feasible if research never left the bounds of the United States coasts. When that occurs it’s a win-win for U.S. dairy producers and consumers.

“We want to inspire, set the stage, help them ideate, and let them brainstorm,” Nicholson-West concluded. “As they create ideas, some of those make it back to the U.S. and drive consumption here, too.”

To watch the recording of the October 27 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.

An ongoing series of events

The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, November 17 at 11 a.m. CDT. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here for free. Registering once registers you for all future events.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2021
October 28, 2021
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