Some international consumers see pizza as an option primarily for special occasions, holidays, or family celebrations. Consumers also prefer toppings that appeal to their local tastes, such as seafood, sweet potatoes, or barbecue that are certainly foreign concepts to the average American.
But cheese is the unifying ingredient that opens the door for the dairy checkoff – and the opportunities are enormous. Consider that pizza accounts for only about 1% of quick-serve foodservice sales in Asia, compared to 14% in the U.S. Another key factor is about 96% of the world’s population lives outside of the U.S. and more people are adopting a love of Western cuisine, such as pizza and other dairy foods.
Dairy farmers saw the potential of growing U.S. dairy sales internationally in 1995 when they created the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) through their checkoff. The checkoff also has upped its presence internationally by extending its successful domestic partnership model into other countries.
The efforts are working, with about 18% of farmers’ milk production in 2022 – roughly one in six tankers – heading to a destination outside of the U.S. This is one way the checkoff is driving increased use of U.S. cheese, which experienced a record-setting year in 2022 with nearly 1 billion pounds exported.
A good bit of that cheese ended up on pizzas produced by checkoff partners Domino’s and Pizza Hut, the world’s top two quick-serve pizza chains. Rebecca MacKay Allen, senior vice president of global innovation partnerships for Dairy Management Inc., said the volume of U.S.-produced cheese used by these chains – in markets where the checkoff has partnerships – has grown 13% the last two years, but she sees even greater possibilities.
“We have a huge upside to grow the frequency of cheese use around the world and our collective checkoff strategies are designed to do just that,” she said. “The possibilities are tremendous.”