TWIN FALLS — Three Magic Valley manufacturers will head to Asia this month in hopes of finding new customers for cheese, cheese powders, erosion-control materials and insulation.
Commercial Creamery Co., Glanbia Nutritionals and Hamilton Manufacturing will be in Taiwan and Vietnam Nov. 10-18 as part of an Idaho trade mission coordinated by the state’s departments of Agriculture and Commerce. The trip includes 21 companies in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
“Exports are critical to Idaho’s agriculture economy,” Celia Gould, director of Idaho State Department of Agriculture, said in a statement. “These trade missions are very effective tools in expanding exports by strengthening customer relationships, growing business and establishing new buyer contacts.”
Taiwan is the state’s third largest overall export destination. Exports in 2016 rose 20 percent from the year before.
Vietnam is also seen as a significant opportunity for Idaho companies. Idaho exports to the country grew 55 percent from 2015 to 2016.
“The United States is now Vietnam’s largest export market and, conversely, Vietnam recently became the United States’ fastest growing export market,” said Megan Ronk, director of Idaho Commerce. “There could not be a more opportune time for Idaho companies to develop strengthened, meaningful trade relations in both Taiwan and Vietnam.”
This year’s mission will be led by House Speaker Scott Bedke. Meetings will take place in Taipei, Taiwan; Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam; and Hanoi, Vietnam.
Here’s what each Magic Valley company had to say about its plans for the trade mission:
As Commercial Creamery is talking about another major expansion of its Jerome facility, President Michael Gilmartin is also keeping his attention on export opportunities.
He’s grown discouraged, however, by President Donald Trump’s actions to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“That actually would have helped us in Asia,” Gilmartin said. “It’s a shame the Trump administration won’t help. He has not been a friend of trade.”
Vietnam was one of the other member countries in the trade agreement.
“Vietnam struck me as extremely vibrant,” Gilmartin said after taking a vacation there.
The country had lots of young people and a pro-American attitude, which he found surprising given the history between the two countries.
“We are selling to Vietnam, but not much,” co-owner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Megan Boell said.
Commercial Creamery hasn’t been active in Taiwan for years, Gilmartin said.
Boell said most of the company’s exports of cheese powders are for snack seasonings. State employees are helping set up meetings with foreign companies, she said.
“The products we make are very technical, so our process for selling them is pretty lengthy,” Boell said. “This is a good way to enter a new country and have people doing research for us.”
Glanbia’s Twin Falls facility exports cheese, lactose and whey proteins — but in Taiwan and Vietnam, the company will probably focus most on promoting cheese.
“Both markets are very fond of Western and U.S. products,” Vice President of International Sales Dave Snyder said. “We do business in both countries.”
Taiwan’s economy is more developed, so it’s a stronger market, he said. Glanbia hopes to sell cheese that will be used in shredded cheeses for restaurants, as well as processed cheese in food service and retail.
But Vietnam holds promise as a cheese importer, in part due to the French occupation that resulted in an affinity for a kind of processed cheese, he said.
The trade mission will help open doors as well as strengthen existing relationships.
“These trade missions compliments our efforts, and doing business in these countries … is largely dependent on developing good relationships with prospective customers,” Snyder said.
Twin Falls’ Hamilton Manufacturing will travel only on the Vietnam portion of the trip, Vice President Matthew Smith said. That’s mostly because the company is in its busy season.
“We’re very busy with domestic orders and production,” he said.
He’s already connected with several potential clients. Hamilton Manufacturing produces 90 percent of its products in Twin Falls.
The company exports soil remediation and erosion materials. These are made from recycled papers and cardboard, an environmental-friendly glue, fertilizer and water. They help stabilize soil and support germination.
Hamilton Manufacturing also makes fire-resistant insulation from recycled materials.
“Vietnam has a lot of potential,” Smith said.