The U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog: Market Analysis, Research & News
  • How USDEC leverages global partnerships to build demand for U.S. cheese

    By Paul Rogers June 27, 2022

    To celebrate National Dairy Month, we showcase how USDEC increases global awareness about U.S. cheese made with nutritious U.S. milk. 

    Editor's note: Since 1939, June has been “dairy month” in the U.S. to celebrate our dairy farmers and the nutritious milk their cows produce. In light of the U.S. dairy industry's growing emphasis on exports, the checkoff-founded U.S. Dairy Export Council presents articles this week showing some of our strategic efforts to increase global demand for U.S. milk used in cheese (below) and dairy ingredients (Tuesday).

    Building partnerships in overseas markets is an essential part of USDEC's efforts to build markets and drive global demand for U.S. dairy. A series of programs and partnerships helped propel U.S. cheese exports to record levels in 2021 and continue to drive demand this year.

    June Dairy Month1

    Program: USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification

    USDEC created the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program to educate professionals across the foodservice, retail and importer/distributor sectors about U.S. cheese quality, varieties, tastes, applications and the industry’s commitment to exports. The goal is straightforward: build awareness and heritage of U.S. cheese to create a generation of U.S. cheese advocates and build long-term demand.

    On the culinary side, USDEC has established partnerships with leading culinary schools in nine countries around the world: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chile. China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chile are the latest to join, with classes having commenced or slated to commence this year. 

    In the importer/distributor sector, USDEC kicked off training in the Middle East in March with UAE-based Truebell Marketing and Trading.

    In 2021, 474 people across all programs earned their certificates. The program has had more than 1,200 graduates since implementation in 2018, and it continues to expand, with new partnerships and curriculum in the works.

    Watch this video montage of a USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program class for culinary professionals conducted last year as part of USDEC’s partnership with National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism in Taiwan. 


    Program: Retail Promoter training

    One track of the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program focuses on retail promoter training. Building promoters’ knowledge of U.S. cheese helps maximize the impact of the in-store promotions.

    In 2021, USDEC conducted its first promoter trainings at Costco stores in China and Korea. Personnel from the USDEC offices in each country trained 69 promoters and team leaders from Costco Demonstration Services (CDS). Participants gained a solid understanding of the cheesemaking process, cheese varieties and characteristics, the nutritional benefits of consuming cheese, and most of all, how to sell and sample cheese and confidently respond to consumers’ questions. 

    This year, USDEC implemented training with CDS in Mexico, covering 40 Costco stores across the country. Well-known chef Alejandro Kuri conducted the training sessions virtually due to COVID restrictions, teaching 80 CDS promoters (two from each Costco store) over the course of two days. 

    To date, 145 CDS promoters in China, Korea and Mexico earned certificates as USA Cheese Specialists™.

    Missha Hu, USDEC China office representative (top, center), conducted the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program class for Retail Promoters at the Shanghai Costco store ahead of the October promotional event.

    Partnership: Costco North Asia

    USDEC’s partnership with Costco North Asia provides a platform for direct outreach to consumers in major markets who are just getting to know U.S. cheese. In China, Costco shoppers lined up to taste U.S. cheeses in Shanghai as part of the USA Cheese Roadshow in-store promotional event late last year. More than 176,000 customers passed through the doors of the store over the course of 10 days. The USDEC promotional event featured a new booth display with presenters who were the first in China to take the USA Cheese Specialist™ Certification Program for retail promoters. 

    This year, USDEC plans to run two more roadshows at Costco China outlets, focusing on in-store sampling and promotional endcaps. The events are tentatively slated for October. 

    Watch this video recap of USDEC’s 10-day cheese promotional event
    at the Shanghai Costco store. 

    Program: Middle East/North Africa (MENA) retail program

    USDEC’s in-store promotional program, including new point-of-sale materials, the pop-up, in-store "USA Cheese Truck," talking demos and online promotions, took place across the Middle East over the past 18 months. 

    USDEC’s in-country staff made more than 1,600 store visits in the UAE and Kuwait in 2021 and another 300-plus in the first four months of 2022 as part of the Merchandising Program. This year, the program is also expanding to Saudi Arabia.

    Since the start of 2021, it saw 130,000 "Cheeses from the USA" seals placed on U.S. cheeses in the Middle East to drive home the idea of the U.S. as a global cheese leader.

    On a worldwide basis, USDEC ran 267 retail promotional activities in 13 countries in 2021, covering more than 3,900 stores and 156,000 consumer-facing promotional hours. Over 500,000 “Cheeses from the USA” seals were placed on U.S. cheeses in supermarkets during the promotion periods. Stores posted an average sales increase of 162% during the promotions.

    Watch this video of some of USDEC's cheese merchandising and promotional activities in the Middle East that have helped build demand for U.S. cheeses. U.S. cheese exports to the region grew 37% by volume in 2021. 


    Partnership: Peter Knipp Holdings

    The USA Cheese Guild, through USDEC’s partnership with Peter Knipp Holdings, is the official dairy partner of the World Gourmet Summit (WGS), Southeast Asia’s annual months-long culinary celebration. The Guild is USDEC’s customer- facing identity and marketing communication platform for cheese.

    The partnership with Knipp and sponsorship of WGS dates back to 2018 and continues this year. Each year, WGS and the USA Cheese Guild collaborate to offer a series of programs and activities to highlight U.S. cheese varieties, tastes and applications in dishes tailored to the region. 

    Those activities have varied given COVID restrictions the past two years, but they generally include participation in the opening reception with a U.S. cheese showcase, restaurant promotions (in 2021, four Singapore restaurants introduced 23 new dishes featuring 13 different varieties of U.S. cheese), a cheese tasting with chefs and media, and sponsorship of the WGS Innovative Chef Challenge. The activities aim to reach foodservice professionals in the region and position the U.S. as the cheese supplier of choice.

    Watch a recap of the 2021 World Gourmet Summit Innovative Chef Challenge (sponsored by the USA Cheese Guild), a contest that tasks local Singaporean chefs with creating new menu items using U.S. cheese.

    Paul Rogers is a correspondent for the U.S. Dairy Export Council who has covered the dairy industry for 25 years. 

    Learn more: 

     to the U.S. Dairy Exporter Blog    

    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post.  

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