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Welcoming a new 2023/2024 Midwest Dairy Foods Research Strategic Plan

April 1, 2024


4 minute read

In 2023, the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center (MDFRC) underwent significant changes, welcoming many new members to its team and identifying areas for enhancement. These exciting changes included hiring a new Executive Director, updating the strategic plan, and creating a new mission statement. The new MDFRC mission statement sets the foundation for the center: “We develop dairy scientists and innovate dairy technologies, ingredients, and products through industry-driven collaborative research to drive regional and global opportunities for Midwest Dairy farmers.”  

Checkoff was thrilled to welcome Dr. Jayendra Amamcharla as the new Executive Director in 2023, a name recognized and familiar to many. For the past two years, Dr. Amamcharla has served as the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center Interim Director working at Kansas State University. He became an Associate Professor of Dairy Fractionation and Separation Science in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Amamcharla received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in dairy technology and dairy engineering, respectively, and completed his doctoral degree in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University. Subsequently, he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Dairy Science Department at South Dakota State University. He also received the 2017 American Dairy Science Association Foundation Scholar Award in Dairy Foods. His work and leadership results as Interim Executive Director have made him a valuable member of the MDFRC and have prepared him well for the Executive Director position. 

Dr. Jay Amamcharla
MDFRC 2023/2024 Strategic Plan graphic

The Strategic Plan was also reviewed and updated to better reflect the center’s priorities in 2023. Midwest Dairy collaborated with a few industry leaders and experts to join in on the creation of the new strategic planning process. Their knowledge and experience helped shape a plan that aligns with industry expectations, making the Center stand out for its exceptional research to put farmers’ dollars to their best use.  

The strategic plan used in years past was made up of four focus areas: Food Quality and Safety, Sustainability, Exports, and Consumer Solutions. Our committee of industry experts condensed these four focus areas into two focus areas: Consumer Solutions and Industry Solutions. This decision was based on research from the past, concluding that all research falls into one of these two areas. These two areas are broken down below: 

Consumer Solutions 

  • Modern wellness: Targeting specific consumer segments (Youth/schools/Gen Z) with dairy-derived components to enhance immunity, calmness, energy, and digestive health. 
  • Foundational research: Investigating milk components to improve consumer experience, including higher protein, high fat, clean label, and sugar reduction. 
  • E-Commerce: Enhancing packaging, food safety, and sensor technology. 
  • Sustainability education: Informing consumers about sustainability practices. 
  • Nutrition: Developing strategies to understand and enhance the bioavailability of nutrients in dairy products.  

Industry Solutions 

  • Export facilitation: Enable cheese and dairy ingredients exports through product and process interventions, shelf life, quality, and functionality. 
  • Quality and safety enhancement: Improving the quality, safety, and functionality of dairy ingredients and permeates powder.  
  • Market expansion: Exploring new platforms and untapped markets for dairy. 
  • Upcycling: Transforming dairy co-products through upcycling efforts. 
  • Analytics: Employing tools and testing methods to measure and predict the quality and safety of products/ingredients. 
  • Microbial innovation: Introducing novel and scalable technologies to improve microbial quality and safety of dairy products and ingredients. 
  • Resource use: Optimize water and energy usage and wastewater management.  

While the Center is confident in these two new focus areas, they wanted to ensure that Food Safety Quality and Sustainability continued as foundational drivers influencing these new focus areas. After much discussion, the planning group felt that “Sustainability” and “Food safety and Quality” were inherently part of each funded research project and sometimes fell into multiple focus areas. Now with only two categories, there are no gray areas. Research is either categorized as a consumer solution or an industry solution and can incorporate both foundational drivers without being ‘defined as one or the other.   

Midwest Dairy is proud of the updates made to the center in 2023 and is confident these changes are vital to the future MDFRC research. Like before, MDFRC upholds its core values of people, collaboration, foundational research, trust, and, of course, excellence. MDFRC will continue to work positively on the farmers’ behalf as we roll out this new strategic plan in 2024 and beyond.