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INTERVIEW WITH BILLY LOU - JUNIOR TRADER

THE FAST-GROWING ASIAN DAIRY MARKET


Hi Billy, could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Billy Lou, originally from Beijing, China, and I came to the Netherlands for my higher education 7 years ago. Here I obtained my bachelor degree of International Business Administration (IBA) from Erasmus University Rotterdam. During my study I went on a semester-exchange to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Currently I work as a Junior Trader for Interfood BV.

What was your motivation to start a job at Interfood?

My initial motivation was to apply for a commercial role, preferably in an international setting with opportunities to travel. During my search I came across Interfood and I saw Interfood as a global dairy commodity trader with a Dutch origin; a firm that is innovative and leading in the industry.

During the application process I was motivated by the people I met and the culture I felt. I got the feeling I was more than welcome and I could see myself enjoying working and developing myself here, together with opportunities to contribute to the company and its business. Also the working environment, Interfood has a state-of-the-art office in Bladel, motivated me to join the company.

Since you’re working for Interfood for a while now, what’s your favorite thing about Interfood?

Interfood is informal, diverse and values autonomy yet with emphasis on transparency and teamwork. I believe that’s one of the reasons why Interfood is successful in the industry.   

What I appreciate the most is Interfood believes in its most important asset – its people. Through the people and the years of operation Interfood gained much reputation, knowledge and trust. Externally I can relatively easily access a large pool of trusted suppliers, and effectively approach qualified clients thanks to our network and reputation. Internally, questions about what cheese starting culture type, veterinary certificate, or payment risk in certain countries can easily be answered by our experienced colleagues. 

Interfood also takes good care for and invests in its employees. Relatively comfortable compensation package and various training opportunities. For example, one challenge I decided to take on is to improve my Dutch language skills by taking Dutch language lessons.

To give an impression, here we often say that: “After all, it is the people who do the business”. I quote our director “ Naturally it is important to perform, but more importantly we (company) want you to look after each other.”

About your job at Interfood, what does your average working week look like?

Travelling is part of our job, I would like to describe my work in two halves. When I’m at the office, due to time difference I prefer to contact my clients and/or colleagues in Asia in the morning. In the afternoon I mostly work with (European) suppliers, or take on tasks that require extra concentration (e.g. analyzing data, working on contracts, reports and presentations, or other administrative tasks). Meetings or discussions take place simultaneously on the trade floor. I also enjoy doing some research on cheese applications, together with the Technical Development Team in our Dairy Food Studio.

When travelling, it’s hard to describe what an average business trip may look like. Sometimes I choose for a formal set-up where we schedule an appointment and align agendas to visit our clients at their office. Other times my activities are more informal because much of my business is being discussed outside office hours and/or at a dinner table.

A personal benefit is that I’m able to combine a family visit and a business trip to China, so I can see my family during the weekend. This allows me to have a balanced and enjoyable lifestyle being based in the Netherlands and yet have the opportunity to often see my family. A mix of cultures and fun, from east to west.

Since you’re responsible for the Asian market, what does the current dairy industry in Asia look like?

I think the current dairy industry in Asia is a diverse and fast-growing market. Due to economic growth and changing food consumption preferences both traditional and non-traditional milk-consuming countries include more milk in their diets. Perhaps I should just briefly explain my view from three perspectives:

Supply vs. demand
Asia plays an increasing role of a dairy importer in the world dairy market, with a fast-growing appetite. This region is also moving up the value/nutritious chain fast. Domestic production plays an important role yet demand growth generally outperforms the supply expansion.

Liquidity of the market (commoditized or not?)
We trade in dairy commodities, so we understand that some products (cheese, butter) are less commoditized than others (skimmed milk powder). This is different per market maturity and per client segment. To add value, we have a strong focus on technical services. We have heavily invested in our Dairy Food Studio, where we do our research or better said; dairy value engineering.

Macro-level
Free trade agreements (FTAs) play an important role in the industry. China is a stronghold for Oceanian suppliers and Japan and Korea are more mature cheese markets and favor EU origins. Local diets and religions matter: for Indonesia it is necessary to have HALAL products.

How do you see the future of the Asian dairy market and the way Interfood will play their role?

I belief the Asian dairy market will become closer connected to the world market (besides Oceania) along with market maturity throughout the time. Their (cold) supply chain will further improve, which is critical to high-value dairy products such as cheese, butter and cream and there will be more needs to and better focus on long-term solutions to mitigate price risks in this volatile market, especially for scaled companies or multinationals. Also the market will be more critical and will put heavier emphasis on technical performance of product applications.

For these trends we see and believe in, Interfood aims to keep on being innovative in terms of commercial solutions (price- and risk insurer within the dairy market) and to continue thriving on technical services, or as we call it – ‘Dairy Value Engineering’.

 
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