Proliant Dairy Ingredients’ committed expansion to sell whey permeate to more than 30 countries has earned the Ankeny, Iowa, company the Tom Camerlo Exporter of the Year award.

The award is presented by Dairy Foods magazine and sponsored by the Arlington, Va.-based U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) in honor of Camerlo, a former USDEC chairman. Now in its 15th year, the recognition goes to a U.S. dairy supplier exemplifying leadership in advancing U.S. dairy exports, demonstrating a commitment to export market development as it makes exports an integral part of its overall growth strategy, USDEC said.

"Proliant is a deserving Exporter of the Year recipient as the world’s No. 1 whey permeate producer,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “The company has opened doors to high-potential global markets with its value-added products and enhances the image of the whole U.S. dairy ingredients portfolio.”

In a video, Dairy Foods Editor-in-Chief Kathie Canning officially presented the award to Proliant Dairy Ingredients on Oct. 15, during USDEC’s annual fall meeting (held virtually this year).

In a letter to Proliant President and CEO Mike Matter, Dairy Foods cited reasons the magazine chose Proliant Dairy Ingredients, including:

  • The company exports 70% of its whey permeate production.
  • It has a strong, consistent commitment to quality — not just in products, but customer support.
  • Proliant Dairy Ingredients has exceptional R&D capabilities via its parent company, Lauridsen Group Inc. (LGI), with export customers given access to LGI’s $10 million laboratory, test kitchen and pilot plant.
  • The company’s technical staff travels extensively to help global customers develop permeate formulations.
  • Proliant Dairy Ingredients participates on the executive boards of USDEC and other national dairy organizations.

The company has two plants: one in Melrose, Minn., that runs 24 hours, seven days a week, and an $85 million plant just opened in St. Johns, Mich., featuring the world’s largest permeate drying facility.

“We are the only company in the world that makes all of our money on permeate,” said Gabriel Sevilla, Proliant Dairy Ingredient’s vice president of global sales and marketing. “We have nothing to fall back on. That’s why we offer the highest quality permeate with the best available technical support.”

The long-range future looks potentially sunnier since Proliant Dairy Ingredients worked with USDEC and others to convince the Chinese government to approve imports of permeate for human consumption. The May 15 announcement was the culmination of a decade of behind-the-scenes work. It marked only the second time China developed a new standard for a product that didn’t exist in China.

Whey permeate is a dairy ingredient made by concentrating and separating whey’s protein and other solids. This results in a soluble, high-lactose component that provides unique functionality and versatility, USDEC noted. Historically, most permeate has been sold for feed that improves the growth and health of piglets.

The next frontier is utilizing permeate for human consumption in China and elsewhere. Customers like permeate because it enhances nutrition and taste — reducing salt and sugar while lowering costs — in foods ranging from hummus to pizza crust to chocolate brownies, USDEC said.

The history of the Exporter of the Year award is chronicled on the USDEC website. Some recent winners include BelGioioso (2019), Milk Specialties Global (2018), Sartori (2017), Swiss Valley Farms (2016) and California Dairies (2015).

A feature article honoring Proliant Dairy Ingredients will be included in the November issue of Dairy Foods magazine and on