The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), Arlington, Va., said it unveiled the start of an exciting new chapter for its presence in Southeast Asia on Oct. 21 with a virtual event officially launching the new U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence (U.S. CDE). As the first overseas physical investment by USDEC, the U.S. CDE in Singapore is funded by U.S. dairy farmers and processors and envisioned as a gateway for collaboration between the U.S. dairy community and Southeast Asia’s food and beverage stakeholders, the culinary sector, health professionals and other partners.
As today’s technological and societal changes continue to drive and reshape the food and beverage industry, the U.S. CDE will focus on inspiring regionally tailored nutrition and innovation solutions with U.S. dairy ingredients and cheeses to meet evolving consumer needs. The investments in the center will also pave the way toward the “future of food,” committing to sustainability, deploying technologies, strengthening collaboration and applying the latest consumer research, USDEC said.
The U.S. CDE launch celebration, which was attended by distinguished industry, academia and government guests from across Southeast Asia, opened with keynote remarks by guest-of-honor Low Yen Ling, minister of state, Ministry of Trade and Industry; special guest Mr. Rafik Mansour, chargé d'affaires a.i., U.S. Embassy Singapore; and Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDEC’s president and CEO.
“The U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence creates an education hub and meeting place where relationships can be developed and strengthened, where we can share market intelligence and insights, spark ideation, lead research and share the remarkable story of U.S. Dairy’s sustainable production,” said Vilsack. “It represents a long-term commitment by the U.S. dairy industry to the region and exports, and recognition of the importance of Southeast Asia as an innovation hub. We’re excited to launch the U.S. CDE and excited for you to see it.”
Vikki Nicholson-West, executive director, USDEC Singapore Ltd., reflected on U.S. Dairy’s progress in Southeast Asia since 1998 and the U.S. CDE as a key milestone.
“Southeast Asia’s dynamic and innovative food sector is a key reason we selected it for the first U.S. CDE, along with deep appreciation for relationships formed over two decades,” she said. “We hope the center becomes a valuable resource that enables Southeast Asian customers, consumers and U.S. dairy suppliers to thrive together in the future food ecosystem.”
Demand for U.S. Dairy’s growing portfolio of high-quality, sustainably produced dairy products has steadily climbed in recent years in Southeast Asia, as customers have come to appreciate the variety and versatility of U.S. cheese and dairy ingredients such as milk powders, dairy protein, lactose and permeate. In 2019, the region was the second-largest destination for U.S. dairy by volume after Mexico, USDEC noted, with an export value of US$934 million (S$1.27 billion). U.S. Dairy exports to the region grew in value by $250 million from 2017 to 2019 and are on track to finish the year with record high value. Southeast Asia is well on pace in 2020 to be the top market of U.S. dairy exports by volume.
“U.S. Dairy has played a crucial role in the food ecosystem and economy of Southeast Asia over the past two decades. Its versatility and adaptability to Southeast Asian food and beverage applications is unparalleled,” said Dalilah Ghazalay, regional director, USDEC Southeast Asia. “As a key part of our programs, we will focus on ‘glocalization’ by innovating with local ingredients to better suit local taste preferences. We look forward to the opportunity to work with and innovate alongside our customers.”
While social distancing guidelines remain in place in Singapore, virtual programming from the U.S. CDE will commence on Nov. 18 with an online seminar on healthy active aging with U.S. dairy proteins featuring nutrition experts from Singapore and Japan, USDEC said.
During the launch, guests were treated to a sneak peek of the Robertson Quay facility through a self-guided 360-degree virtual tour highlighting the center’s key features, which include a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, ISO standard-based sensory evaluation lab, meeting and training rooms and the latest video broadcasting capabilities, showcasing how the U.S. CDE can further support customers and partners in Southeast Asia. The event also featured a live U.S. dairy protein innovation demonstration led by Robert Elijah Fajardo Milan, a mixologist, and Martin Teo, technical director, food applications, USDEC Southeast Asia.
Larry Hancock, a Texas dairy farmer and the council’s chairman, relayed farmers’ enthusiasm for the U.S. CDE.
“Southeast Asia is a large area with many different cultures and countries, and likewise so is the United States of America,” he said. “Yet despite the diversity, as an industry we are united on caring for cow care and comfort, to environmental stewardship, and to the quality of the great nutritious products we produce. We are united on exports and meeting the needs of local customers and consumers through the new U.S. CDE.”