Home » Exporting's Big Cheese, Schreiber Foods, is the 2008 Exporter of the Year
This year’s winner helped lay the groundwork for U.S. dairy’s global market.
U.S. commercial cheese exports have been rising steadily for more than a decade, but sales really began to take off in the second half of 2007. Exports were just shy of 100,000 metric tons last year, and from January through August 2008 they were up 49%, on track to reach nearly 150,000 metric tons by year’s end.
A number of companies have contributed to U.S. cheese export success. But few have demonstrated the long-term commitment or consistently strong performances of this year’s Exporter of the Year: Green Bay, Wis.-based Schreiber Foods Inc. “Schreiber is one of the first U.S. dairy companies to recognize the growth opportunities afforded by going international,” says Marc Beck, senior vice president, export marketing, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
USDEC and Dairy Foods magazine sponsor the annual Exporter of the Year Award, which is granted to a company that demonstrates leadership in driving global dairy demand and advancing U.S. dairy exports, commits resources to export market development, posts significant export sales, and makes exports a key part of its overall growth strategy.
“Schreiber had the foresight to see that, notwithstanding the huge growth potential of the U.S. market, exports held the promise to become not only a significant part of its own business but a key component of the U.S. dairy industry as a whole,” Beck says.
Indeed, U.S. companies are on track to ship a record 11% of the total milk solids produced in the United States to overseas buyers this year. Compare that to 4 to 5.5% routinely shipped from 1993 to 2003.
About 3.2% of U.S. cheese tonnage moved beyond U.S. borders in the first eight months-an all-time high, up from 1 to 2% from 1999 to 2006. This change has made a significant difference in the supply-demand situation of the U.S. cheese market, where even small shifts can swing the balance.
Schreiber has been a big part of that success. The company made its first export sale, a shipment of cheddar to Algeria, in 1991. Seventeen years later, it sells natural and processed cheese, cream cheese and cheese analogs to 34 countries worldwide. Exports have brought new sales, increased profits, and accelerated company growth. Best of all, it provided a diversified income stream, helping insulate the company from market downturns at home and abroad.
“When the U.S. dairy market was weak, international was strong, and vice versa,” says Deborah Van Dyk, Schreiber’s vice president, industry and regulatory affairs.
Schreiber’s was a long journey from modest beginnings. “In the early years, Schreiber was not sure that exports would flourish as they have,” says Bret Drake, the company’s export team leader. “At that time, Schreiber leaders had a strategic vision to grow internationally. We pursued that strategy by starting with a small staff and attending food shows to learn the business.”
Schreiber was one of four companies that participated in the very first U.S. dairy trade mission sponsored by the National Dairy Board in 1991, when export conditions were significantly less favorable.