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USDA Goes the Distance to Connect Tennessee Dairy Exporter with New Buyers

Posted by Krissy Young, Senior Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Trade
Feb 02, 2024
A large spoon pouring a pile of milk powder

Sometimes, even the most successful and experienced entrepreneurs need a little extra help navigating ways to diversify and expand their business model. For dairy products and ingredients company, Tedford/Tellico, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee, that was the case in 2022, when its Global Sales Director Matthew Tedford attended his first-ever USDA-sponsored agribusiness trade mission more than 8,500 miles away in the Philippines.

Tedford/Tellico, Inc. had already successfully established itself as a global supplier of U.S. dairy products, including nonfat dry milk, whole milk powder, whey powders, whey and milk protein concentrates/isolates, cheeses (including cream cheese), lactose, butter, buttermilk powder, sweetened condensed milk, and cream, to bakeries, ice cream manufacturers, cheese processors, snack food companies, health supplement providers, spice blenders, beverage and chocolate makers, breweries, veal and swine feed manufacturers, and calf milk replacer companies.

“Tedford/Tellico, Inc. was founded as a domestic endeavor in 1982, and first entered the ranks of exporter 10 years later when we started shipping whey powder to Mexico,” explained Tedford. “We expanded into China in the late 1990s, which has since become our largest export market.”

And, while Tedford/Tellico, Inc. had succeeded in becoming a global enterprise with buyers in more than 20 countries worldwide, the desire to increase diversification, create new revenue streams, and help alleviate reliance on any one market was growing – and that’s what really attracted Tedford to apply for the USDA-sponsored trade mission to the Philippines.

“Our primary focus was, and still is, on increasing exports in Southeast Asia,” said Tedford. “We have a proven business model; we just need to find the right long-term partners in these growing markets.”

With the help of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and its Office of Agricultural Affairs in Manila, Tedford was able to find some long-term business partners after productive one-on-one business meetings with foreign buyers during the USDA agribusiness trade mission in July 2022.

Tedford noted, because of those meetings arranged by USDA, “We shipped our first container to Manila in September, shortly after the trade mission. Since then, we have shipped a total of 3,160.50 MT of U.S. dairy products worth $2.7 million to the Philippines. This is quite an accomplishment considering we had never sold a single lb. of product to the Philippines prior to the USDA trade mission.”

The company expects to see these sales numbers continue to grow as some of the contacts that USDA helped establish during the trade mission have now become long-term customers. And this is a tremendous success not only for Tedford/Tellico, Inc., but also for the more than 20 U.S. dairy cooperatives and proprietary manufacturers it represents.

As for what is on the horizon for the company.

“Our goal of expanding exports to Southeast Asia continues to drive our future trajectory,” added Tedford. “With this goal in mind, next we will be attending the USDA trade mission to Korea this March.”

Category/Topic: Trade