Dairy promotion builds partnerships, opportunities

GRAPEVINE, Texas – The national dairy checkoff program is leading the industry with strategies that make a real impact in the marketplace, both today and in the future, according to dairy producer leaders who spoke to nearly 1,000 producers and other industry representatives at the 2009 National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB)/United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA)/National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Joint Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

“The dairy checkoff is making action plans that stick” in the consumer marketplace, said Paul Rovey, Arizona dairy producer and chair of Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program through funding by NDB and UDIA. Making a real difference requires foresight, collaboration and leadership – all of which are characteristics of today’s dairy checkoff, he said.

In outlining core business principles needed to have an idea really “stick” in the marketplace, Rovey offered the example of the dairy checkoff’s partnership with McDonald’s.

* Benefit to society: With the success of single-serve milk now offered at 14,000 McDonald’s outlets, and 55,000-plus other quick-serve restaurants, as well as at nearly 11,000 schools, kids are getting the products they want, more than 1.2 billion times a year.

* Business plan flexibility: The checkoff’s partnership with McDonald’s is broadening, as the chain recognizes the checkoff’s wealth of consumer and dairy industry insights, along with product development and technology support that will help McDonald’s bring to market the products consumers want even faster.

* Integration across channels: Beyond the successful 2009 launch of McCafe® specialty coffees – which consist of up to 80 percent milk – McDonald’s has announced a 2010 national rollout of Frappes® that consist of nearly 50 percent dairy. In addition, McDonald’s is growing cheese sales via its launch of Angus Third Pounders, which use two slices of cheese per sandwich.

* Integration of interest and efficiencies: Competitors of McDonald’s are now using their own dollars to develop more dairy-based beverages, and to add more cheese to their menu items. McDonald’s already has invested $1.2 billion to add specialty coffee equipment and in-store renovations at its restaurants.

Capitalizing on a Network of Partnerships

In the case of McDonald’s and other initiatives, dairy promotion programs have built a network of partnerships that deliver strong sales results, according to Bill Siebenborn, a Missouri dairy producer and chair of UDIA, the federation of 19 state and regional dairy promotion organizations that work to implement a consistent unified marketing plan to build sales across the country.

“The grassroots input and relationships of the state and regional dairy promotion organizations play a critical role in bringing these programs to life,” he said. “We are able to accomplish this through powerful partnerships among 19 state and regional organizations that are members of UDIA, and between UDIA and NDB,” Siebenborn said. These partnerships combine resources and create efficiencies that lead to positive results for dairy producers, he added.

Siebenborn offered the example of “Fuel Up to Play 60,” a school-based partnership between the dairy checkoff and the National Football League® that encourages students to eat dairy and other nutrient-rich foods, and get sixty minutes of physical activity each day. This program will be available in roughly two-thirds (60,000) of our nation’s schools by the end of the 2009-2010 school year, thanks to the network of 350 local dairy promotion staff.

Local dairy promotion staffs also worked with Domino’s Pizza® franchises to raise awareness and build sales of Domino’s American Legends™ specialty pizzas, including publicity on Web sites and promotions with local media.

Beyond food service, dairy producers are also working to grow cheese sales in schools.

“Nationally and locally, we are working with schools, cheese manufacturers and other industry leaders to create a healthier pizza — one with real cheese that tastes great, but with reduced levels of fat, sodium and calories,” he said.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy: Creating a Common Voice

A key partnership structure that the dairy checkoff has built within the dairy industry is the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Rovey describes the Innovation Center as the industry’s “think tank” for identifying opportunities to grow sales in the dairy industry, and for developing and implementing action plans to address issues that could be barriers to that growth. In addition to the Innovation Center’s 30-plus member organizations, Rovey pointed to the involvement of more than 400 dairy industry leaders who have volunteered their time and resources in a shared commitment to dairy farmer priorities: health and wellness; insights for innovation; sustainability; globalization (to better position U.S. dairy in the world marketplace); and consumer confidence.

Regarding the latter priority, the Innovation Center “provides a forum for the industry to identify opportunities and develop action plans to better deliver nutritious dairy foods, beverages and ingredients for the health of people, communities, and the earth,” added Kimberly Clauss, a California dairy producer and NDB chair. “In other words, it’s Healthy People … Healthy Products … Healthy Planet.”

“When the public has a positive image of dairy products, dairy producers and the industry, it helps maintain and grow confidence in U.S. dairy products and ingredients,” she said.

A Consumer Confidence operating team has been created to work with dairy marketers to drive a consistent, unified message to consumers.

The dairy checkoff already does this through such vehicles as www.dairyfarmingtoday.org, which educates consumers about how dairy producers care for their animals and the environment, while providing safe, nutrient-rich dairy products. Components of the Web site can also be found on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter to reach more consumers through social media.

Clauss related that the checkoff has an industry-wide issues and crisis management system in place to respond to misinformation with a common voice. Checkoff-funded regional crisis preparedness drills in 2009 involved more than 150 participants from dairy co-ops, branded processing companies, grocery store chains, and federal and state government regulatory agencies. According to Clauss, the goal is to create a “common voice” network to respond in the event of a crisis involving consumer confidence in dairy products and ingredients.

For more information about producer-funded dairy checkoff programs, visit www.dairycheckoff.com.


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