Dairy of the Desert
By Michal Lev-Ram

(Business 2.0) – IDEA NO. 7 Find a desirable Third World niche product and industrialize it.

Quick: Name a food consumed for thousands of years in Africa and the Middle East that the United Nations says will soon bloom into a $10 billion industry. Answer: Camel's milk, the harvesting of which, until recently, was limited to nomads with buckets. Now a Kenyan company, Vital Camel Milk, is creating a dromedary dairy industry--ramping up production in the hope of exporting to the West.

The timing couldn't be better. In the past year, researchers have hailed camel's milk as a new superfood: It packs 10 times more iron than cow's milk and has antibodies that could help fight cancer and Alzheimer's disease. With 20 million camels in the world, dairy experts at the United Nations's Food and Agriculture Organization predict $10 billion in annual sales for camel's milk products by 2016.

"Once people recognize the healthy effects of camel milk, the market will be endless," says Holger Marbach, founder of Vital Camel Milk. "I expect tremendous international demand." Marbach has orders from local airlines and a clinic in Peru, and expects to make deliveries to the United Kingdom soon.

To reach the United States, however, he'll need to overcome a major hump: food import regulations. But Marbach, a tropical agriculturist with a background in dairy technology and cattle husbandry, is confident his supersensitive pasteurization techniques will assuage American fears.

If he succeeds, the possibilities are endless. Marbach sells camel's milk ice cream in Kenya, while Johann Hochleitner, an entrepreneur in Tamsweg, Austria, is developing camel's milk chocolates. Cheese, yogurt, and butter are also in the works. Who said there was no wealth to be found in the desert?