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USDEC Ramps Up Collaborative Gatherings At The U.S. Center For Dairy Excellence In Singapore

USDEC Ramps Up Collaborative Gatherings At The U.S. Center For Dairy Excellence In Singapore

By Paul Rogers and Tom Quaife

With high expectations and ambitious plans, the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence (U.S. CDE) announced its opening in October 2020 in Singapore to serve as a hub for collaborative dairy innovation in Southeast Asia.

Funded by U.S. dairy farmers through the national dairy checkoff program, the U.S. CDE is a state-of-the-art gathering place for the U.S. dairy community and Southeast Asia’s food and beverage stakeholders.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 put many of those plans on hold. Singapore had very strict regulations on crowd size and social distancing, which the Center diligently followed. But there still could be virtual programming, such as webinars filmed at the Center, as well as some limited meetings with USDEC members and dairy export customers. Meanwhile, staff utilized the demo kitchen to work on innovative ideas using U.S. dairy products and ingredients.

Now, with the COVID restrictions eased, the U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence is ramping up in-person activities.

Late last month, 26 food and beverage product development specialists, R&D scientists and senior managers gathered at USDEC’s U.S. Center for Dairy Excellence. A July 13-15, 2.5-day workshop highlighted the innovation potential of U.S. dairy ingredients.

“Our aim was to introduce the multi-faceted benefits of U.S. dairy ingredients to inspire food and beverage manufacturers in Southeast Asia to expand product lines with U.S. dairy proteins and permeate and meet consumer needs for healthier products,” said Kristi Saitama, USDEC vice president, Global Ingredients Marketing.

“The smiles, energy and enthusiasm of attendees was positive evidence of the workshop’s success.”

Leveraging partnerships

The workshop was not only the largest in-person customer gathering held at the U.S. CDE since its early-pandemic opening but was also the first that brought in attendees from multiple countries throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, it was a perfect example of USDEC leveraging its five-year partnership with Singapore’s Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC).

Workshop participants represented food and beverage companies from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, with two additional attendees from academia and another from a Singapore government enterprise agency. Eight USDEC member companies took part in the workshop as well, many as presenters.

Innovation front and center

Over the first two days of the workshop, USDEC Southeast Asia staff and invited speakers gave a series of interactive presentations highlighting the multitude of ways U.S. dairy proteins and permeate could be used to develop a seemingly endless array of everyday foods that align with the dietary habits and preferences of Southeast Asian consumers.

On Day 1, Pauline Chan, director of Singapore-based Food and Nutrition Specialists, outlined how USDEC helped develop 47 Southeast Asian consumer-friendly foods and beverages to help fill protein intake gaps throughout the day. Martin Teo, USDEC Technical Director–Food Applications, Southeast Asia, took the presentation a step further, showing attendees how to select the best-fit U.S. dairy protein based on the application and desired functionality and exploring commercialization potential.

On Day 2, Juzar Kagalwala, director, BASES Business Partner, NielsenIQ Singapore, presented the "Evolution of Snacking in SE Asia," highlighting how nutritionally fortified snacks will power growth in the category. Kagalwala’s presentation segued into a joint discussion with Anoo Pothen, director-consumer insights at USDEC’s Southeast Asia office, drawing in key learnings from USDEC custom concept testing on protein-enhanced healthy snacks (for more on that research, see APFI item below).

USDEC's Martin Teo

Hands-on workshop

Teo then presented “better-for-you” savory snack prototypes made with U.S. dairy permeate and protein-enriched snacks featuring U.S. dairy proteins, many of which were developed through USDEC’s partnership with FIRC.

On Day 3, the workshop went entirely “hands-on.” Held at FIRC’s Mix and Bake Lab, participants were divided into five groups and given base recipes using dairy proteins and permeate. Each group was instructed to create three formulations using the base recipes and additional ingredients in the lab.

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