Business-development specialist Annie Ma is the latest of what will be nine additional on-the-ground professionals opening doors for U.S. Dairy Export Council members in key export markets.

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Dairy Export Council president and CEO, traveled to China recently to begin a new partnership with Jiangnan University. While there he moderated a conversation with Ma and U.S. Dairy Export Council’s China representative Daniel Chan. They discussed opportunities to increase U.S. dairy exports to the world’s largest country.

Ma is the latest hire of what will be nine new on-the-ground professionals to expand business opportunities in key global export markets – China, South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East/North Africa region.

The expanding resources for U.S. Dairy Export Council members are part of “The Next 5%” initiative to raise annual U.S. export volume from the equivalent of 15 percent of U.S. milk solids to 20 percent.

“These hires illustrate an increased commitment to serve customers beyond our borders,” Vilsack said. “Trust is a key to our long-term strategy. It requires putting more people on the ground for the face-to-face conversations that build lasting business partnerships.”

Visit blog.usdec.org/usdairyexporter for a video of their conversation. An excerpt of the conversation between Vilsack, Chan and Ma has been edited by the council for brevity, clarity and grammar.

Vilsack: From your perspective, where are the opportunities for cheese here in China?

Chan: Our sky is our limit. We started from a very narrow small base. We saw the market being established very quickly. Both the trade and the consumer are learning to acquire the taste for cheese in this market. We look at the market expansion; it’s mostly on pizza cheese, followed by cheese for the bakery sector. At the same time the retail cheese is also developing – not only in volume; they’re developing in variety as well. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this rapidly expanding market potential. And therefore our trade program and consumer communication will be very important.

Ma: We have big opportunities (with cheese). For example cream cheese originated in America. People know that. People like it. So we have very good opportunities to introduce more to consumers.

Vilsack: Let’s talk about ingredients. That’s another component to our market opportunity here. Where do you see the ingredient market here in China and how can our members potentially access more of that?

Chan: The ingredients market continues to grow as Chinese demand for dairy products expands. We look at growth from the food area. Hopefully we will be able to get permeate in food applications accepted by the Chinese authorities. So that is one major area that we think we will have some significant volume expansion. The other thing that we think will bring us great potential is focusing more (from the manufacturing and supply side) on the specifications required by customs in China. We are bringing in trade missions, and putting buyers and sellers together to develop long-term strategic partnerships.

Vilsack: (The U.S. Dairy Export Council) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with a new partner, Jiangnan University in China. Tell us a little something about that partnership and how you see the benefits coming from that.

Visit blog.usdec.org/usdairyexporter and click on “read more” below the Cheese Exports video to see a video on Jiangnan University.

Chan: It’s very exciting news to us. I think setting up this long-term strategy with Jiangnan University will be a major breakthrough (and) put us on the higher level in terms of meeting customer needs and facing challenges from competitors in this market.

Vilsack: What is the Chinese consumer’s perception of U.S. dairy and our products?

Ma: People here like imported goods. American food in general is very popular in China. The Chinese people know U.S. dairy products are safe and of high quality.