It’s often said, “Seeing is believing.” While the U.S. dairy industry has believed in the potential and growth in partnerships with customers throughout Southeast Asia for many years, a delegation of U.S. dairy farmers spanning nine states saw, for the first time, the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence in action.
Located in the island nation of Singapore, the new center is easily accessible for many current and potential customers throughout the region, which is home to nearly 9% of the world population, and yet, some countries in the region produce less than 1% of their domestic dairy needs.
Even though this was the farmers’ first trip to Singapore in a number of years, dairy customers have been working with the U.S. dairy industry’s flagship investment in Southeast Asia for over three years now . . . albeit mostly on a virtual basis. That’s because the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence opened just two weeks prior to the pandemic. With the COVID-19 conditions lifted throughout much of the world, U.S. dairy farmers got to walk through the doors for the first time.
“If we are serious about exports in this region, we can’t just talk. We must do,” said U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) CEO Krysta Harden of the new center in Singapore. “On the ledger for the positives, we have so much going on for U.S. dairy,” shared Harden regarding the overall long-term view on U.S. dairy exports. Part of that “going on” is the six major countries of Southeast Asia growing to become the second largest dairy product customer for the collective U.S. dairy industry.
Last year, the six countries in Southeast Asia purchased a record $1.68 billion in dairy products from U.S. dairy processors. Keep in mind this growth took place even with headwinds such as supply chain logistics and port issues that made dairy product delivery a bit of a challenge to customers some 12 hours of time zone changes halfway across the globe.
The Philippines leads the “six some” of countries and ranked No. 5 among all U.S. dairy customers. The Philippines, the world’s No. 13 country ranked by its population of some 117 million people, is among the world’s most dairy-deficit countries producing less than 1% of its dairy product needs.
Standing No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9 are Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, respectively. Thailand and Singapore rounded out the group of six major dairy product customers in Southeast Asia.
A first-of-its-kind facility
The U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence provides a business home in Southeast Asia for processors to interact and ideate product solutions with customers. That’s so very important as dairy serves as an ingredient in a portion of so many foods. However, those foods have a far different look and flavor than those cuisines often found on U.S. dinner tables. That’s where the demonstration kitchen and sensory labs in the new Center for Dairy Excellence play a pivotal role.
“This is the first-of-its-kind learning facility,” said Vikki Nicholson-West, Senior Vice President, Global Ingredients Marketing. “This is the Disney of Dairy,” continued the ingredients leader who helped create plans for the new center. “This center is providing the stage to develop locally tailored foods, beverages, menus, and innovative win-win solutions,” said Nicholson-West who has been with USDEC for half of its 28-year existence.
“The visibility for the U.S. Dairy Export Council is real,” said Daliah Ghazalay, USDEC Regional Director for Southeast Asia. “We are making good traction.”
That traction includes a nearly 5-percentage shift in market share for the U.S. in recent years having moved from 23.7% to 28.3%. Now that the Center for U.S. Dairy Excellence is fully open for business, the newfound interaction between U.S. dairy suppliers and their customers located on the other side of the globe will grow further as everyone creates synergy to incorporate great U.S. dairy ingredients and its healthy halo of nutrients into Southeast Asian foods.