U.S. cheese export milestone offers a case study on long-term market investment and development, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).U.S. cheese exports grew nearly 16 percent in 2012, breaking the $1 billion mark for the first time.

This was no fluke, no temporary spike in sales, USDEC officials are careful to note. This was a milestone more than a decade in the making.

“Global demand growth driven by emerging market economic expansion, urbanization, population growth, and retail and foodservice chain modernization set the stage for cheese exports,” says Angélique Hollister, USDEC vice president, cheese and consumer products. “Taking advantage of that opportunity required long-term investment and a shift in mindset by the entire U.S. industry. The results have been remarkable.”

U.S. cheese exports blossomed from 2005-2012, jumping from 57,760 tons to 260,034 tons.

“The efforts built one upon another, gathering momentum along the way,” says Hollister. “And as U.S. cheese suppliers continue their commitment to export markets, $2 billion is certainly on the road ahead.”