Checkoff helped build demand, protect dairy’s image in 2003

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ROSEMONT, Ill. – The dairy producer checkoff program helped contribute to a 2 percent increase in the commercial disappearance of total milk over the first nine months of 2003, as reported by the USDA.

The year was marked by notable inroads in retail marketing, school-related programs and increased milk sales in restaurant chains featuring plastic single-serve re-sealables, among others.

Marketing changes. “In 2003, the dairy checkoff helped lead revolutionary efforts to change how dairy products are marketed,” said Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc., the organization that manages the national dairy checkoff program.

“The result will be increased demand now and in the future.”

Gallagher pointed to key accomplishments in 2003

3-A-Day of Dairy campaign. In January, the dairy checkoff launched the 3-A-Day of Dairy program, a nutrition-based marketing and education program that urges Americans to consume at least three servings daily of milk, cheese or yogurt.

In the past 12 months, more than 65 leading milk, cheese and yogurt manufacturers and more than 40 leading retailers (representing more than 50 percent of all U.S. grocery store sales) have joined the 3-A-Day of Dairy program to increase dairy category sales.

Additionally, four health professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association, are helping educate their more than 240,000 health professionals nationwide about the health benefits of milk, cheese and yogurt.

Retail dairy sales increase. Through November, cheese retail sales have increased 6 percent compared to 2002 – double the percentage increase of last year – while fluid milk sales have held steady, according to supermarket scanner data.

Successful 3-A-Day of Dairy programs are helping increase sales.

One retailer reported that, due to a 3-A-Day of Dairy promotion, it sold an additional 1.2 million gallons of milk and 500,000 pounds of cheese during the 13-week promotion period, above national sales trends.

Weight management. Through National Dairy Council, the dairy checkoff began its “Healthy Weight with Dairy” campaign in October.

The campaign educates Americans about nutrition research showing that consuming three to four servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day, as part of a calorie-controlled diet, can result in reduced body weight and body fat.

The campaign, a partnership between the dairy checkoff, National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), includes print advertising in consumer publications, national and regional public relations.

Also included is a weight-focused Web site at www.healthyweightwithdairy.com, and educational efforts with health professionals.

Improving in schools. The checkoff is educating school foodservice professionals and milk processors about the benefits of offering an enhanced milk product in the school cafeteria.

Checkoff-funded research has shown that milk consumption and sales will increase if milk is offered cold, in plastic, re-sealable containers on the school feeding and a la carte lines, and through milk vending machines.

More than 330 schools, representing more than 300,000 students nationwide, now offer single-serve milk in plastic, re-sealable containers on the school meal line.

In 2004, MilkPEP will begin a $500,000 education program to educate milk processors about the benefits of offering an enhanced milk product to our nation’s schoolchildren.

In restaurants. In September, the dairy checkoff partnered with Wendy’s to implement a four-week test in Miami, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, of flavored, single-serve milk in plastic containers with its Kids’ Meal menu.

While a confidentiality agreement with the chain precludes the reporting of specific sales data results, Gallagher said results have far surpassed expectations.

He is optimistic that Wendy’s will introduce the “new” milk offerings in its nearly 6,000 Wendy’s stores nationwide in 2004.

Dairy ingredients. In 2003, dairy checkoff-funded ingredient marketing and product research programs showed researchers and product developers with major food companies how dairy ingredients such as whey proteins, dry milk and cheese can help manufacturers meet evolving consumer needs.

The dairy checkoff provided key research data and technical assistance to contribute to the introduction of several new products in 2003 that relied heavily on dairy ingredients.

International markets. Through the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the checkoff sponsored in-store cheese tasting in Mexico, where shoppers sampled U.S.-produced Brie, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone, and Swiss cheeses at seven major retail chain outlets.

USDEC also continued its mission by providing technical assistance through seminars in foreign countries that demonstrated the functionality of U.S. dairy ingredients in baked goods and other food applications.

Protect dairy’s image. Since its inception in 1983, the dairy checkoff program has been committed to protecting dairy’s image publicly.

In 2003, the checkoff used an industry-wide issues management network which identifies and responds to media portrayals of dairy products and the dairy industry.

In addition, the checkoff communicated positive nutrition and health news about dairy through print and broadcast media.

The checkoff also led an industry-wide crisis preparation program working to arm national, state and regional dairy checkoff representatives with communications tools needed to respond to potential industry crises.

Regional crisis training drills addressed issues that could potentially affect dairy product consumption.

Tell dairy’s story. Hundreds of dairy producers participated in communications training workshops in 2003 to help tell dairy’s story to the public.

During the training, producers learn to tell dairy’s story relating to environmental, animal care and other issues in a concise, understandable way through consumer-tested messages.

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