How did U.S. dairy exports affect the market in 2023 and what does the future hold for dairy exports in 2024 and beyond? What is the checkoff doing globally to help promote and grow international consumer trust in U.S. dairy?
Listen as Minnesota dairy farmer and Farmer Relations Committee Chair Charles Krause discusses U.S. dairy exports with William Loux, Vice President, Global Economics Affairs at U.S. Dairy Export Council, and Vikki Nicholson-West, Senior Vice President Global Ingredients Marketing and Executive Director USDEC Singapore Ltd at US Dairy Export Council. Vikki and Will bring to light the importance of the international market and how partnerships and collaboration facilitate the US Dairy Export Council’s mission. Learn why global relationships between partners, co-ops, processors, and checkoff are the bedrock of a successful dairy export strategy.
Tune in to find out!
To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.
Host & Guest:
- Host: Charles Krause, MN Dairy Farmer – Farmer Relations Chair
- Guest: William Loux – Vice President, Global Economics Affairs at U.S. Dairy Export Council
- Guest: Vikki Nicholson-West – Senior Vice President Global Ingredients Marketing and Executive Director USDEC Singapore Ltd at US Dairy Export Council
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Transcript (AI-generated, ignore typos)
Charles Krause 0:00
Welcome to the your Dairy Checkoff Podcast. I’m Charles Kraus, a dairy farmer from Central Minnesota and chair of the farmer relations committee for dairy management Incorporated. The your Dairy Checkoff podcast is where we discuss checkoff programs directly with dairy industry experts and national and local dairy promotion staff. We want to help you understand the Cefic programs and how they are helping to drive dairy sales and build consumer trust. Today we’ll be discussing what’s been going on with us dairy exports in 2023. And what the future of exports holds. I have with me two experts from the US dairy Export Council. Vicki Nicholson West is Senior Vice President global ingredients marketing and the executive director for us Dec Singapore, and will loubs, Vice President of Global Economic Affairs at the US dairy Export Council. Before we get into our topics, Vicki, can you tell me a little bit about what you do for the US dairy Export Council?
Vikki Nicholson-West 1:06
Charles, great to be here. Yes, actually, I lead a team of marketers. And we’re really responsible, I am responsible for developing and setting the strategies that we do for our ingredients marketing program, around exports into international markets. We focus on a set of key price strategic priorities, primarily one around health and well being to around promoting dairy ingredients, and driving category penetration and innovation. That’s about how do we use more ingredients and new and different food applications, local friendly food applications. And then making sure that we include in everything that we talk about the US dairy story, why buy from our US dairy processors and suppliers, and realizing that, you know, ingredients are a element and not the finished product. We do have a focus around technical service and technical marketing. Because we have to show food formulators and product developers how to incorporate it all the unique functional and benefit aspects of ingredients. And then my second hat, as you noted, is I guess I got a day job in a night job I am let’s put it this way, Singapore is 12 hours away, is that I helped lead and focus on managing our US center dairy Excellence, which we affectionately call the US CDE which is under the umbrella of the US, US tech Singapore limited organization that we have sent out there. And I know we’re going to talk a little bit more about that. So I won’t go any further. But appreciate the time here. I’m really excited. Thanks a lot, Vicki.
Charles Krause 3:00
That’s great. Well, can you let our audience know what you do for us deck?
Will Loux 3:04
Yeah, sure thing. So Vicki said she’s got a day job and a night job, I effectively have two day jobs. So I get the joy of leading the economics unit for both the US dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation. So we’ve got a team of five economists now who are really focused on really what’s happening around the world, as far as dairy markets go. So we joined together last year between the Export Council and National Milk, or I guess two years ago now, as I’m thinking to the right year in 2022, to really kind of share pharma resources and make sure we’re not paying for things twice, but allows us to look at both domestic and international markets, what’s happening around the world. So we have a team that basically spends a lot of time looking at Excel files, looking at data and talking to people around the world to try and see what’s happening, where we should be investing our resources most efficiently. And where we can really kind of make the most difference as check off and as the Export Council, especially going forward. So I’ve been with the Export Council about five years now my specialty has kind of always been in the international market. And so really glad to be here to talk about what’s happening overseas. That’s
Charles Krause 4:14
great. Well, thanks. So I’d like to start the conversation off today with the most obvious question. How did dairy exports do and 2823?
Will Loux 4:23
Yeah, so I think I get to start that one off. So really through 2023, we first only have 10 months of data right now. There’s simply just a lag by the time things go through USDA, and it published by the US government statistics. So right now we’ve got through October. But what we’ve seen Overall this year, at least through those first 10 months is US exports took a little bit of a dip this year, after three kind of straight boom years in a row we hit records and 2020 2021 and 2022 and we took a step back here in 2023. Now there was some difference depending on which product you were talking about. out. Most of the decline actually 75% of our decline in exports came from low protein whey products, primarily your permeates and your sweet way. That was the major driver, why we were down and total volume terms, a lot of that having to do with China. But we also took a small step back and cheese after hitting records last year down 5%, nonfat dry milk pullback, slightly down 3%. But we’re also on pace for high value way exports actually hit another record, that one is actually going to be up 17% So far this year. So you know, it’s kind of this mix based on products. And there’s a number of different things driving that that we can get into in a little bit.
Charles Krause 5:45
Sure, yeah. Why don’t we jump right into that? Why do you Why did this happen? And why were the experts slightly down last year?
Will Loux 5:51
Yeah. Yeah, I guess I could have just jumped straight in. No, there’s a number of different things happening right now. So number one, and I think it’s the folks are the major factor that people will be feeling here in the United States as well is that the global economy has really kind of been soft this year. I mean, I think folks in the US, I think, certainly have seen it in terms of the prices that they’re paying at the gas pump, the grocery store, or on their mortgage, if they’ve bought a house recently or anything else is folks are paying attention to what they spend their money. And internationally, food is a much bigger part of the spending, or the expenses that you’re going through on a given month. So one of the things that I’ve trotted out in the past is basically here in the US, we spend about 5% or so of our income on food. And on a given year. And internationally, that number is much, much higher in the Philippines, it’s almost 40% of their income goes to food consumption. So in a lot of markets where, frankly, inflation is has been worse outside of the US than in the US. So I mean, we’ve talked about inflation here, and we’ve come back down to earth pretty quickly in 2023. And even looking better and 24. Right now, you’re still seeing high inflation, and a lot of emerging markets and a lot of dairy importing markets that are critical to us. So you’ve seen really consumers pull back internationally. At the same time, we’ve had an absent China, and China is the number one dairy importer in the world. And they’ve been absent for basically the last two years, because they’ve been pushing hard into increasing their own domestic production. But their consumers are also in really rough shape. So we’ve had the number one importer in the world has been pretty negative. We’ve had weakness, I’d say in a lot of Asian markets, Korea and Japan, two of our biggest cheese markets, both down significantly, this past year, Southeast Asia declined in terms of total demand, not just from the US, but total demand more than any other market in 2023. But all that to say, you know, we’ve had a really tough demand environment. And we’ve got more competition from our friends over in Europe and New Zealand, who had more production actually, this year. It’s kind of a anomaly after the past three years, they had more so we had more competition and weaker demand. And the fact that US exports actually performed surprisingly well has a lot to do with what happened in Latin America. You know, I really think of in many ways Mexico as a critical extension of the US dairy industry. I mean, we are actually seeing Mexico probably hit a new record for us this year in terms of total demand, their cheese demand has skyrocketed. They have the highest consumer confidence of basically any OECD country in the world. That’s one of the key metrics for kind of established and developed markets. Their consumers are really optimistic, and they’re buying dairy products, and they’re buying dairy products from the US. So we are kind of seeing this dichotomy this year. In Asia, we faced a lot of headwinds, economically competitively. But in Latin America, we’ve been really strong. And I think you’ve seen that over the course of this past year with our exports. So I kind of look at 2023 and say, certainly, it was a step back from three consecutive years of records. But we’re actually still in pretty good shape compared to where we were before we started this boom cycle in the first place.
Charles Krause 9:19
Sure, and that’s, that’s a lot of information. Well, and, you know, we’ll roll right into the next question. What do you think 2024 is going to look like for US exports?
Will Loux 9:27
Yeah, that is certainly the million dollar question. I think here as to what 2024 looks like. It all honestly, I think we’re probably going to face a lot of the same demand heads. I mean, inflation is still forecasted to be really high and a lot of emerging markets, particularly in Asia. China is still forecast to be pretty quiet. Maybe they come back a little bit in some products, they are buying more cheese, but they’re not buying as much whole milk powder from New Zealand so then New Zealand sells more cheese to Japan or Mexico or Southeast Asia. Though everything kind of ties together in the global marketplace, so I kind of see demand, probably running sideways again this year. And so we’ve seen demand run sideways. Last year, we saw, I think we’re gonna see demand run sideways this year in terms of global aggregate demand. But I think our competitors are going to take a step back, I think you’ve seen pretty lackluster milk production out of New Zealand, they’re running basically flat. But Europe has slowed down sharply. I mean, I think really what we’ve seen and farmers will well know here is weaker margins this past year, because we had this weak demand. And we saw an increase in supply on a global basis prices went down. And that doesn’t affect just our farmers here in the US and affects what’s happening in Europe, too. And you’re seeing those farmers really slow down fast, you’ve seen a number of countries go very negative in the fourth quarter in terms of milk production growth. And I really think that’s going to open up some doors for us, I think we’ve seen the Europeans came in for much of last year, selling cheese, about 50 cents a pound cheaper than us. And that was really hard to compete with in a really competitive international marketplace. And so as I look to next year, I don’t think we’re going to see that kind of level of price undercutting or price gouging that we saw for that time, but I do think we’re probably still going to be in a tough demand environment. So I kind of look at this and say things look better. But I kind of look towards 2025 as maybe the year that hopefully demand internationally really starts picking up and maybe even by the second half of this year. All right, great. So
Charles Krause 11:32
that’s a short term look at the Outlook. So either of you, what do you think the next 10 to 15 years looks like for for opportunities for us dairy to be exporting?
Will Loux 11:41
Yeah, I can start off here. And Vicki can certainly jump in as well. But this is where I get really optimistic. So I mean, Vicki, Well, now’s because she works with me a lot of the time as to you know, sometimes I can be a little cautious in my optimism as we get towards the near term and demand and everything else because of all these economic headwinds. But as I look long term, I’ve got a lot of hope in the US dairy sector and US dairy exports in particular. I mean, fundamentally, we are in a situation in a global marketplace where our competitors are not growing their milk supply. In the long run, I mean, New Zealand has stagnated, Australia is going negative. and Europe while they had a good growth this past year, that wasn’t because they built any new farmers are really added more cows, it’s the fact that they kept their barns full for a year longer, because margins were good at the start of that year. And they’re slowing back down again. So we’ve got our competitors standing on the sidelines. And I think long term a globe that is growing in terms of demand, due to rising populations, rising incomes, and consumers choosing dairy as their incomes grow. So to me, I look really around the world and see great opportunities for the US. But I’ll pick a few in particular, when I see Mexico, I mean, it’s our backyard, we’ve got an 85% market share today. And if they see real demand growth, which we’ve seen this past year, the US is the best place to take advantage of that. And we’ve seen that here in 2023. And I think we’ll see it again in 24. But I also have a lot of optimism for Southeast Asia, this past year notwithstanding, Southeast Asia has been one of our key markets and remains a key market. I mean, even after this pullback this past year, they’re still our second largest market. And they were our largest market in 2020, and 2021. And they’ve got really strong population growth, I think their income growth looks really good. And we’ve got an opportunity where we’re pretty competitive on price and everything else within the region. I also see great opportunities in high value space in Japan and Korea. And maybe Vicky can talk more about that. But I think really, the US has a great opportunity. It’s a matter of whether we make the right steps now to invest and lay the groundwork for building that demand and building sustainable long term export growth.
Vikki Nicholson-West 13:57
Yes, I’ll actually build on that. So I’ll dive deep, a little deeper on the demand side. And I’m optimistic too, which rarely do will. And I always agree so well, but this is one of those few times that we do. And that from a consumer perspective, there’s a huge focus, especially since 2020 and COVID really accelerated the consumers focus around health and well being around immunity. So whether it’s for healthy aging, infant and child nutrition, or just set general I want to be healthier, because I really want to be able to withstand a lot of the issues that have come on or any viruses or whatnot. Dairy has a really strong story to tell and plays a huge role in that from providing that nutrition. So, you know, very optimistic and see a lot of potential in the next five to 10 five to 15 years when it comes to dairy protein. Beans, even though we see this emergence of alternative proteins going on dairy, dairy proteins still are the gold standard, everyone’s chasing us trying to emulate dairy proteins. And, you know, outside of the US and Western Europe, it really is the go to for a very high nutritious protein source. The other thing that’s coming on is the emergence of bioactives. And I know that probably sounds like a crazy, really intense word. But what we’re talking about are those elements of the proteins. So proteins are made of macro elements, you can start breaking those down. And they each have different unique functionalities, nutritional benefits, and so we can start separating that out more, and it has a lot of value. So we talked about whey proteins, milk protein concentrates, there are elements within milk called lactoferrin, alpha lactalbumin, which are elements of the protein which are in high demand. At the same time, there’s a lot of interest in those emerging markets where they are, as you know, William mentioned, they’re growing their demand, and not only because they have more disposable income, but when consumers have more disposable income, they want to spend it on nutrition first in their family. So they’re going to dairy for that. And the US is in a great position as we hear about what our competitors out of Europe, and Oceania are doing. You know, they’re focusing on more narrow items. And they realize that the US is the one is one mentioned to me at a trade show recently. I see the US is trying to control the world, you guys really want to run it? Well, yes, we do. And we are in the right space to do so in it is recognized. So I think within Southeast Asia, we’ve got a great story when it comes to beverages, protein, beverages, healthy snacks, and even in bakery products. And then when you talk about Northeast Asia, like South Korea and Japan, who are which are very strong markets for us in the protein space, we definitely have a lot opportunity there in high protein products, but also in these bioactives, in which there’s value in wanting to see them perform and these unique applications. And then Mexico and even brothers, Latin America is growing in their interests and expanding in their use of dairy ingredients. So not just skim milk powder, or nonfat dry milk, but also looking for higher value higher functional format. So I’m really optimistic about the future. And I’ll put the plug in that, you know, I focus on ingredients, I have a counterpart that focuses on cheese. And I know we’re expanding our cheese capacity within the US, which means we’re expanding our whey protein capacity. It’s just a win win, I think for our dairy farmers and our dairy processors.
Charles Krause 18:03
That’s great to hear, Vicki. Thanks. So we were looking forward 10 to 15 years. Why don’t Why don’t you give us a brief history, a little history on why USDA was founded and when it was founded.
Vikki Nicholson-West 18:17
I’ll jump in on here I guess I’ll be the old timer. This is my I realized my 15th year with us Dec so actually, US dairy Export Council was created and founded in 1995, by dairy farmers, you our founding for you know, founders for this organization. And really one of the visionaries was Tom Camillo back in the day, who recognize there’s a global marketplace going on in the area of commodity trade and food and we weren’t playing in it. In 1995, about 2% of our EX of our production was going into exports. And majority of that was subsidized by federal dollars. Here we are today. And you know, William can correct me but we’re now knocking on the door of 1819, hopefully 20% of our dairy solids production being exported. And part of that is allowing our industry to be a player in the global dairy market. So it’s really the vision of dairy farmers that created us tech, and has helped us to get to this point to create a home for those dairy products and those dairy ingredients and really the opportunity for dairy farmers to feed consumers around the world.
Charles Krause 19:36
That’s great, Vicki. So how does us Dec work with dairy management Inc on the national level and then all the way down to the state and regional level where farmers like myself are running our farms. How do they work together?
Vikki Nicholson-West 19:51
Well, I’ll jump in on this. We actually work hand in hand with with DMI on the national level. They are our parent organization. You they are the national checkoff which funds a significant part of our programs and in our, our initiatives. But also we engage with them on in collaboration on when it comes to exports on a number of initiatives and particularly collaborating on some of the partnership programs that they have in place. So the efforts that coops have and wanting to expand their capabilities or their reach internationally, with partnership support with the DMI group there, we collaborate with them. So we have a cross organizational team that we call Of course, another acronym, ie at the international export team, to actually work together and identify those opportunities where we can work cross functionally, to really help the checkoff in the Federation, you know, move forward and and drive volume in those international markets. So this includes partnerships with such organizations say like Domino’s, in Japan, Pizza Hut in Southeast Asia was one working with the DMI, partnership team and supportive co ops like Ampy and Dairy Farmers of America and dairy gold in their initiatives to really expand their reach and footprint in international markets. So we were working with them. And I should note, it’s not just us Dec and DMI. But the SNR is are also part of this ie T team. It’s a three way discussion. It’s a three way collaboration. So we’re sharing insights. We’re sharing research, we’re sharing resources to really support our co ops and our dairy farmers to try and make our industry successful in the international export market space.
Charles Krause 22:03
All right. So what’s the value of growing exports? Overall, the US dairy Export Council versus co ops and processors is establishing their own international partnerships.
Vikki Nicholson-West 22:18
Well, I will say this, it’s it’s not one or the other, we actually work with dairy processors and coops. And we want coops and processors to have international relationships, it is vitally important that they develop them, nurture them and maintain them. So our goal is to facilitate that. And then to support them and understanding the marketplace, how to navigate it, what the guidelines are, you know, what might be some of those constraints and how to manage those constraints. But as I like to say, we’re here as the warm up band. So, you know, the trade, the global marketplace is a concert, we’re the warm up band, you guys, you’re the main act, you’re the rock stars, we’re just there to make you look good, get everybody in the mood to want to buy from us dairy, and work together. So it’s really a collaborative effort that we have with dairy processors and coops. And we have them participate as part of our activities. We engage them and support them when they’re in market with our office representatives that we have in the various markets. So we have office representatives in Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and in the Middle East. They’re as boots on the ground to help co ops and processors in market really be successful and engage with the local trade.
Charles Krause 23:59
All right, that’s great. So I’ve had the opportunity to go on a farmer trade mission with your team to the Center for dairy excellence in Singapore this past year. You got to meet the great staff, all the people that are carrying our message forward and that large market that we have in Southeast Asia and very eye opening for me to to see the differences in culture, the differences in taste profiles and how we can adapt how we manage our exports in the United States, Co Op wise and processor wise to, to sell to those markets. So my question is, why do you think it’s important that farmers attend these trade missions versus just having our US debt cons staff on site?
Vikki Nicholson-West 24:44
Oh, it’s, I will say, I mean, the benefit of having farmers be a part of our trade missions is one it’s a learning opportunity for you. We want you to see, you know, what is going on in the international marketplace. and also to learn about those different cultures, as you mentioned, you know, Charles, but it’s also very important to see where your dollars are going and how they’re working on behalf of dairy farmers, it’s very important for us for you to know how that how those dollars are working on your behalf. But the other part is, it’s very important that the trade and those markets see you. Because our dairy farmers are very important to buyers, you really bring that personal element to it, they understand, and really look to you guys as rockstars as to who’s making this this nutritious product called Milk and dairy, and how it’s turned into all the various products that you get from it. So I’ve, we’ve had, I think you’re a part of like, probably the second or third mission we’ve, we’ve taken to the region. And every time, you know, buyers and users are just so excited to meet the dairy farmers that are behind the products that they buy. And they’re really eager to learn about your farms, about your cows about how you take care of them about the practices and the care that goes into it. It means a lot to them, because it resonates your passion and your love for what you do just oozes out and it reinforces to them that they’re buying from a source that really takes a lot of care, a lot of you know, pride and a lot of time in providing a high quality, nutritious product that’s going into their in use product that’s going to consumers that they are putting their name against. So it’s just invaluable to have farmers there. And hopefully you found that experience, very fulfilling, but also learning because it’s it’s it’s kind of like show and tell I can tell you a lot but to see it really brings a lot to the table. But I think the other part that I learned from it is you come with a different set of eyes and different set of perspectives. And I learned just as much as farmers in market and how to approach things better. Our teams learn that, hey, these are asked, you know, additional things that we want to add to the story that we make sure that we highlight, because you bring a set of expertise there also. So we’re all part of a team selling this product to these end users, and really making sure that we’re successful overall.
Charles Krause 27:34
That’s great. And one of the observations that I went, we had a group of people geographically and size difference and people United States gets pegged as having large dairies only, and we had people anywhere from grazing 100 150 cows to, you know, my farm in the Midwest and freestall. And I think people in Southeast Asia are surprised at how cold the temperatures get here. And we can still get a lot of quality Nakata recalls to California and Texas dairy farms. And so I think that that’s a great story. A US dairy can tell is our diverse background. We’re not one size fits all, and we have all different ways to sustainably produce that milk. So looking forward, are there any international partners that were looking? Let me rephrase that, looking to international partners with exports? How are we looking to find these partners and and help them get into the markets?
Vikki Nicholson-West 28:33
Well, I’ll kick this off because and William, you can chime in. We have all different types of partners as US tech that we’re looking to engage with. So from a marketing standpoint, there are nutrition and innovation partners that we engage with in market like Tec de Monterrey, the University of Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, which really helps us connect with not only distributors and educating end users, but also students who are going to be those future food formulators. We partner with a group out of Japan called Keota, Sanyo, which helps us develop applications and recipes that are local friendly, to include dairy ingredients in those local foods application. So local cuisine, things that we wouldn’t even consider from, you know, an American palate. But also, you know, my counterpart that it leads the cheese marketing program. We have culinary partnerships, that work with chefs and various markets and provide education on to those chefs of how to use keys as in various different foods and understanding how cheese works, and the different values and benefits of cheeses. And then we have our sustainability team, which we call Samah. Which I you know, I apologize to Nick Gartner because I never get the acronym right For, you know, sustainability and Multilateral Affairs, I think I might have gotten it right, finally. But they partner with such groups as like Aida out of Latin America, which support the different policy efforts they have, and putting forward around sustainability. So we have these partnerships, and we’re constantly looking at who else within that world can help reinforce, and support that US dairy story, but also our initiatives in our endeavors and within those respective markets. Yeah,
Will Loux 30:32
and the one thing if I can add Vicki here to you is just, I think, around the world and dairy trade is very relational. And there’s a lot of relationships that are critical as part of this. And as much time as I spend looking at the data and Excel files, a lot of this is driven by strong relationships that US DEC has in the region by being committed, and be by remaining, you know, steadfast in our commitment to us dairy export. So whether that’s partnerships with different opera, different groups like Vicky was mentioning, whether it’s working with government and relationships there or whether it’s relationships with the trade importers so that they know us nowhere to come know that we can help solve problems that they have or also creates solutions. More importantly, to them, I think is really where we, as the US deck and really thanks to our strength from checkoff is really powerful.
Charles Krause 31:23
All right, so here’s the final question. And elites get to give just one answer to this. But what is the one thing you’d like farmers like myself to take away from the conversation we’ve had about us dairy exports?
Will Loux 31:39
And I’ll go first, I think he has time to think here a second. But I mean, to me, the one thing is that I see there is a great potential for the United States abroad to continue driving demand, and really take advantage of the demand growth that we see that will happen due to populations and incomes and everything else we talked about. There’s a great opportunity there. But it’s gonna require investment and commitment in order to get us there. And it’s not going to be given to us. But instead, we’ve got to gotta go out and take it and invest moving forward. And that’s why things like the Senator for dairy excellence. I think things like former trade missions are so critical to that moving forward, and there’ll be new things that we haven’t even thought of that are going to be critical to really getting us to that future.
Vikki Nicholson-West 32:24
Yeah, this was actually this is a bit of a tough question. But I would say, because there’s that you said that the pick one. That’s the tough part. But if I were to pick one, based upon today, I hope that farmers understand and take away, you have a team of people that are very passionate, excited and believe in the product that you produce, and are working very hard to promote it, to talk about it every time they get a chance to in the international marketplace, and to make it as successful as possible. So all of the support, all of the resources that you provide us are extremely appreciated and valued. But you’ve got a team of folks around the world that are very excited to talk about us theory and to promote it and to sell it and to reinforce its value every chance they get.
Charles Krause 33:22
Well, thank you, Vicki, and we’ll for the conversation about exports today. I think we could go on and on but we need to wrap it up. It’s been interesting to hear about how the what the Dairy Checkoff did, or exports in 2023 and how we look forward into the coming year of 2024. In closing, I just want to say thank you for joining us and all the farmers listening today. If you want to hear more about various issues affecting the dairy community, subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform, including Stitcher, Spotify and iTunes or you can check out our website Dairy Checkoff. podcast.com for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai