Consumers crave connection. So how do you create that connection? Build a game-changing innovation center halfway around the world, find some of the best people to run it, and ultimately create synergy between the U.S. and customers throughout Southeast Asia that builds dairy demand.
“The Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE) is right in the middle of 600 million people in Southeast Asia,” said Skip Hardie who recently witnessed the CDE during a U.S. Dairy Export Council farmer trade mission in early June. “This center is a U.S. dairy farmers dream come true,” continued the New York dairyman. That dream is the ability to better connect with customers and grow U.S. dairy product and ingredient sales.
The CDE, located in the small island nation of Singapore, is a natural fit for U.S. dairy farmers and processors. Singapore is 12 time zone changes from America’s east coast. So, having a home nearly halfway around the world is critical as the center allows the U.S. to interact with them on a personal basis.
“I was involved at the virtual grand opening but it’s so much better seeing it in person,” said USDEC Board Chairman Larry Hancock of the CDE that had a virtual opening some three years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I am so impressed with the facility. However, I’m even more impressed with the people who are working here and their excitement for U.S. dairy,” continued the Texas dairyman. “They are great people, and they are working hard. They will sell more milk and expand our markets here,” he said of current and future work in Southeast Asia. That future is already looking bright as the U.S. has grown to a 28% import market share. That’s up nearly 5 percentage points since the CDE opened in 2019.
Getting dairy into food products
One of the most impressive things I saw at the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence was how they were able to look at different ingredients and different ways to use dairy in forms that I never even thought,” said Marilyn Hershey, chair of the board of directors for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and a Pennsylvania dairy farmer. “It fits perfectly into the Singapore and Southeast Asia culture,” she said of the center that helps educate customers about U.S. dairy ingredients and cheese and informs USDEC members about promising export growth opportunities throughout Southeast Asia.
“The most striking thing that I found at the Center for Dairy Excellence is our ability to find wide-ranging solutions for our customers,” said Missouri dairyman Alex Peterson, doubling down on the solutions the CDE can provide customers. “Whether it’s the test kitchen where we can come up with new formulations, the sensory lab to test those creations, or a space to host presentations or webinars, the CDE is a great place to connect with customers,” continued the USDEC vice chairman of the center that’s creating a wide and inventive array of delicious and nutritious prototypes made with U.S. dairy ingredients and cheeses.
People make it happen
“The thing that impressed me most about coming to the CDE in Singapore is the enthusiasm and the professionalism of the staff here,” said Maine dairywoman Kate Fogler. “They are absolutely crazy about U.S. dairy, and they really want to help us move forward into the future.”
California’s Becky Nyman couldn’t agree more. “There is a very talented team that is very dedicated to helping our dairy industry,” said the Hilmar dairywoman. “They are a very high caliber group of people who are really looking out for dairy’s best interest.”
Dad would agree
“Being a dairy farmer from Minnesota, I do travel a lot around the United States. However, this is my first time outside of North America in my life,” said Minnesota dairyman Charles Krause.
“Having the opportunity to come to Singapore and see the Center for Dairy Excellence is kind of overwhelming for me. I think back to my father and ask, ‘What would he have thought about the need for dairy exports?’” Krause considered about his late father who once hauled milk to town in cans, where it was turned into dairy products for nearby residents.
“Coming to the Center for Dairy Excellence really opened my eyes to see the innovation, the way we are working with customers, and the way we are making that connection,” said a wide-eyed Krause. “We can have a great product, but if we don’t have a personal connection, that great product means nothing. The people who work for us at the Center for Dairy Excellence in Singapore are the ones who are getting that word across for us.”