- The price of U.S. cheese has reached a record high, due in part to its demand, in the form of pizza and junk food, in emerging markets like South Korea.
- South Korea imported 49,000 metric tons of cheese in 2013, 25% more than the previous year, according to data from the U.S. Dairy Export Council. In dollar terms, U.S. cheese exports to South Korea rose from $276 million in 2012 to $348 million in 2013, surpassing exports from Japan and Canada in 2010.
- That increase contributed to the overall increase in global cheese exports from the U.S. in the last six months of 2013.
The size of South Korea's pizza delivery market was worth about $1.5 billion in 2013, according to Euromonitor data, just behind Japan's $1.6 billion, which has a larger population. China's pizza market is worth about $2.4 billion, and still has room to grow rapidly. But in South Korea, the cheese is not just going on pizza. Cheese is also added to traditional dishes such as fried pork cutlets, ramen and budae jjigae, and a "Korean army stew."
Drought in New Zealand and poor weather in Europe and South America have hit output from those regions, which has helped boost demand for U.S. cheese to fill the supply gap. South Korea has also been sending back some imports of mozzarella cheese from New Zealand after bacteria was found in it in December, leaving the country even more dependent on U.S. imports. The free-trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea also contributes to the demand, as the elimination of tariffs renders American cheese imports much more attractive. Asian demand for American milk and dairy products also boosted sales in the organic category, as we see here, though that was specifically attributed to China.