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U.S. dairy demonstrates commitment to Southeast Asia with partnership

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Partnership with Food Innovation & Resource Centre in Singapore lays framework of opportunity.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the Food Innovation & Resource Centre (FIRC) at Singapore Polytechnic signed a partnership agreement in May that furthers the U.S. dairy industry’s commitment to food innovation to meet the needs of Southeast Asian customers and consumers.

USDEC explained that Asia is currently an incredibly important region for U.S. dairy exports, containing seven of the top 10 U.S. export markets: China/Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. Five of these markets showed major increases in U.S. dairy export value between 2016 and 2017:  China/Hong Kong (up 44%), Japan (up 41%), South Korea (up 21%), Philippines (up 8%) and Malaysia (up 3%).

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) lays out a framework under which USDEC and U.S. dairy suppliers will work together with FIRC to deepen dairy knowledge, develop innovative food products for the Southeast Asian market and provide consumers in the region with more options suited to their specific tastes.

“Singapore is a hotbed of food innovation and the gateway to Southeast Asia,” USDEC president and chief executive officer Tom Vilsack said. “FIRC’s team of food technologists, packaging specialists and engineers is at the forefront of establishing Singapore as a strategic food hub. We are very excited to be working with this innovative group and look forward to sharing U.S. dairy technology and expertise.”

FIRC -- a joint venture between Singapore Polytechnic and Enterprise Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade & Industry -- was formed in 2007 to provide food companies with technical expertise in new product and process development. It is part of the government’s economic goal to establish Singapore as a global center for food and nutrition research and development (R&D). Since opening, a number of multinational food firms have created R&D centers in Singapore to support product development for future growth.

“One of FIRC’s objectives is to leverage science and technology to develop food innovations and capture new markets,” FIRC director Loong Mann Na said. “We expect the dairy knowledge and spirit of innovation brought by USDEC and its members will advance progress toward that goal.”

U.S. dairy is not new to the region. USDEC has staffed an office in Southeast Asia since 1998, and currently, around two dozen USDEC member companies have personnel based in Singapore or Southeast Asia.

“This partnership allows U.S. dairy suppliers to be at the forefront of the product development process, become more customer-centric and enhance their level of service,” said Martin Teo, technical director, food applications, with USDEC’s Singapore office.

Teo will serve as the key contact between U.S. dairy suppliers and FIRC. When he joined USDEC in March of this year, he brought with him 25 years of experience in the Southeast Asian food industry. Like the MOU with FIRC, he is part of the broader U.S. plan to deepen the U.S. dairy industry's ties with Southeast Asia and meet the region’s dairy needs.

USDEC’s 2018 activities focus on demonstrating how the U.S. lineup of sustainably produced dairy protein, milk powder, specialty ingredients and cheese fit the taste preferences and nutritional requirements of the region. Those activities fall into two primary areas:

1. Health and wellness focused -- A permeate workshop at the FIRC facilities, a U.S. presence at Food Ingredients Vietnam, USDEC’s U.S. Dairy Innovation Seminar in Vietnam, a technical training mission in the U.S. for Southeast Asian food R&D specialists (in coordination with the 2018 Institute of Food Technologist Expo), an ingredient innovation seminar in October and Food Ingredients Asia provide further opportunities for U.S. suppliers and Southeast Asian buyers to work together, build relationships and explore the benefits of U.S. dairy ingredients.

2. Culinary focused -- USDEC hosted cheese receptions, showcases and chef events as this year’s official dairy partner for Singapore’s World Gourmet Summit and at Food & Hotel Asia. A cheese innovation seminar is on tap for August. The series of events seeks to promote awareness and heritage in U.S. cheese and demonstrate how U.S. cheese varieties, quality, value and innovation can meet the needs of the Southeast Asian foodservice sector.

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