TOKYO—Sandwiches often include meat, cheese and tomato. But a Japanese baker has come up with a sandwich that just has the cheese and tomato.

Cheese from the United States….

Yasuhiro Nakajima, who works at a major bakery company in Tokyo, recently was named a winner in a U.S. Dairy Export Council-sponsored food competition.

Nakajima explained to Dairy Herd Management why U.S. cheese works so well for him. He said the Colby Jack cheese is very interesting because of its marbled look, which adds color to the final dish. Colby Jack doesn’t have a strong flavor that overrides the other ingredients. Yet, the Pepper Jack does has a unique accent or taste. Those cheeses, in addition to cream cheese and Parmesan, offer the flavor package that he likes.

Again, he lives more than 5,000 miles away.

Until recently, many U.S. dairy producers looked at exports as a means to get rid of surplus product. But, increasingly, they are learning that it can be a very lucrative value-added market if they are willing to make the commitment to satisfying the needs of customers, like Nakajima.

Paul Rovey, chairman of Dairy Management Inc., who was in Japan on a trade mission in November 2011, says the country is a very promising market for U.S. dairy products.

“They have a very high level of trust in U.S. dairy products,” Rovey said. “Their biggest concern is the availability (of those products) and our willingness to be a consistent supplier.” 

“We assured them that the American dairy industry will work toward being a consistent supplier of cheese and dairy products,” Rovey said.

“A lot of it is building trust and getting to know the customer,” he said.  

“If we form those relationships and build those bonds, this will be an opportunity” for Japan and others to be long-term consumers and utilizers of U.S. dairy products, he added.

Jerry Messer, chairman of the Midwest Dairy Association, also was on the trade mission in Japan. As a dairy producer from North Dakota, he acknowledges that he is now producing dairy products for both the domestic and the international markets.

“As we export into these markets, as we expand these markets,” we need to learn what type of dairy products the people in Japan and elsewhere need, he said.