CENTER FOR DAIRY EXCELLENCE: Quality, origin milk label claims
Pennsylvania analysis has national Implications
By Jayne Sebright
In 2012, the Center for Dairy Excellence, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University and St. Joseph’s University partnered to conduct a comprehensive “Pennsylvania Dairy Futures Analysis.” The goal was to look at historic trends, make future predictions and identify interventions needed to expand Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.
While much of the study focused on producer demographics and on-farm production trends, one chapter was devoted to milk consumption, seeking to identify things processors could do on a state or regional level to positively impact future milk sales.
This research was completed by Dr. John Stanton and his research assistant, Ekaterina Salnikova, at the St. Joseph’s University School of Food Marketing. The team evaluated the relative impact of various milk label elements, including which “front-of-pack” claims appeared to have the greatest impact on the likelihood of consumers to buy milk.
Based on secondary research from other milk labeling claim studies, Stanton identified seven key influence areas to test:
1) Price level. Labels listed whether the product was available at the base price or had a premium associated with it.
2) Functional or structure benefits. Labels either claimed the product helped build strong bones or supported weight management.
3) Nutrient content. Labeling claims included “Nine essential vitamins and minerals” and “Excellent Source of Calcium and Vitamin D.”
4) Production. Products were either labeled as organic, all-natural or from cows not treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin.
5) Origin. Labeling claims included “From Your Local Dairy Farm” and “PA Preferred,” a Pennsylvania-produced brand claim.
6) Taste. This claim was simple: “Tastes Great.”
7) Quality. Labeling claims included “100% Guaranteed Fresh” and “100% Highest Quality.”
Variations of these claims were placed on 40 different labels, divided into 13 different sets of four labels. About 1,500 individuals responding to an online survey were asked to choose the labels they preferred, both without any price difference, and with consideration to three price levels.
Label claims had an impact
When given a choice between a product at the lowest price with any claim, and one at the same low price without claim, respondents were about four times more likely to pick the one with the label claim. In this study, 52% of the respondents chose the milk with a label claim at the base price, while 22% chose the milk with a label claim at a slightly higher price premium, and 9% chose the milk with a label claim at a much higher price premium. Only 13% chose the milk at the base price with no labeling claim.
The two label claim areas having the most influence on the respondents’ purchasing choice were Quality and Origin. Within Quality, making a “100% High Quality Guaranteed” label claim increased the respondent’s likelihood to buy the product by 18.1%. Putting “From Your Local Farmer” on the label also increased the likelihood to buy by 18.1%. Putting the “PA Preferred” brand on the label increased the likelihood to buy by 10%.
The broader “Pennsylvania Dairy Futures Analysis” will provide a significant look at what is needed on the production side to foster growth and prosperity of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. However, this labeling research could have much broader implications across the U.S. dairy industry.
Over the past decade, U.S. fluid milk sales have been struggling, with year-over-year declines. According to Stanton’s research, one of the most simple, yet significant, tactics dairy processors can do to bolster fluid milk sales is put a labeling claim on the bottle. And, if they use a labeling claim, this research shows the most impactful are those relating to origin and quality.
• Jayne Sebright is Communications Director with the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Dairy Futures Analysis, visit www.centerfordairyexcellence.org and go to “Dairy Information.” Or, call the Center for Dairy Excellence at 717.346.0849.