By Irving Britton
The current plight of dairy producers across the country has become the source of many headlines in ag publications and much discussion within the dairy community. The global economic crisis has made the ups and downs of our milk markets more severe than normal. Every organization serving dairy producers is reviewing ways they can respond to these economic challenges.
Your dairy promotion checkoff organizations are no different. Those of us who serve as producer board members are making sure our staff is well-informed and doing their part to help. Promotion’s role is to help maintain and build sales over both the short and long term, and we have strong initiatives in place to do that. Yet more is required during particularly tough times like this one. One place we can influence the market short-term is by addressing pizza sales.
That business, important to us because it represents more than 25% of all cheese sales, has been declining in recent years. But a new effort is underway with Domino’s Pizza® to promote the launch of six new specialty pizzas that use up to 40% more cheese. Domino’s is one of the nation’s largest pizza chains. Its unveiling of these pizzas is the first step in a plan to make pizza “new again” to consumers by focusing on cheese.
You may have already tried one of these pizzas, called “American Legends” because they became available just before the Super Bowl. However, the real promotion of the pizzas kicked off in early February and will run for six weeks. The pizzas include:
· the Honolulu Hawaiian with ham, bacon, pineapple, red peppers, provolone and mozzarella cheeses on a parmesan crust;
· the Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch with chicken breast, white sauce, bacon, tomatoes, provolone and mozzarella cheeses on a provolone crust;
· the Pacific Veggie with red peppers, spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, feta, mozzarella and provolone cheeses on a parmesan crust;
· the Memphis BBQ Chicken — Chicken breast, barbeque sauce, onions and parsley with provolone, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on a cheesy cheddar crust;
· the Buffalo Chicken with chicken breast, Buffalo hot sauce, onions, parsley, provolone and American chesses on a cheddar crust; and
· the Philly Cheese Steak with steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, provolone and American cheeses on a provolone crust.
The Legends pizza box says, “We use six legendary cheeses brought to you by America’s Dairy Farmers. Then we give you 40% more.” So dairy producers are already connected to the new product, but Midwest Dairy Association is involving dairy farmers in hands-on promotion of the pizza in my own local territory, the St. Louis market. A radio ad features Fulton, Missouri, dairy farmer Steve Echelmeier, and dairy farmers will help with public relations and other media outreach in the St. Louis metro area. Radio stations are also being approached to tie in the Legends theme for extra promotion value. Discussions are underway regarding additional promotional activities for June Dairy Month and other summer consumer events.
In addition to the St. Louis market that is covered by Midwest Dairy Association, similar efforts are underway in Columbia, S.C., (led by the producer-funded Southeast United Dairy Industry Association), and Albuquerque, N.M., (led by the producer-funded Dairy MAX), to engage producers in helping increase consumer awareness and get them to try the new pizza offerings at Domino’s.
Foodservice partnerships developed by the dairy checkoff have already grown cheese sales by millions of pounds. The new Domino’s initiative is an exciting opportunity to add to those successes.
We as dairy producers expect the organizations we support to bring every possible resource to the table to help us weather the current economic storm. Our extra push for pizza is one way we can provide a demand boost in the short term. Meanwhile, maintaining and strengthening sales through long-term strategies will remain critically important to dairy’s future.
Irving Britton farms with his wife, Pat, and their two sons at Villa Ridge, Ill. They milk 110 cows and he serves on the Midwest Dairy Association St. Louis Division board. He is also a board member for his cooperative, Prairie Farms, and for the Illinois Milk Producers Association.