Commission refocuses research, promotion dollars
Dairy promotions in Oregon are undergoing a major overhaul.
Advertising and sponsorships are getting scaled back as the Oregon Dairy Products Commission redirects its focus to exports and product development.
Pete Kent, the commission’s executive director, decided to rethink the promotions strategy after considering where most Oregon dairy products are consumed.
Only about 30 percent are sold in Oregon, while the bulk are shipped out of state or exported.
“Where do we really need to put our money to create new demand?” Kent asked.
Dairy producers in Oregon pay an assessment on their milk production, which provides the majority of ODPC’s $3 million budget.
The commission had been devoting its promotions budget entirely to publicize Oregon dairy products locally.
Given the high proportion of outbound sales, it made sense to adjust the commission’s spending to reflect those markets.
A key component of the new direction is close cooperation with companies that use the milk produced by Oregon dairies.
“We’re going to be working more closely with processors than we have,” Kent said.
While the commission will retain some local promotions, it will now concentrate on market development — helping processors find new sales channels and devise new products.
The previous strategy aimed to “push” products by raising awareness of certain categories, like Oregon ice cream, which may provide a temporary spike in sales, said Kent.
Now, the commission will try to “pull” through sales of dairy products by creating new demand for them, he said.
One aspect of the strategy will be providing processors with resources, like information about foreign labeling requirements and statistics about consumer trends for certain products.
Processors can receive education and training about exports and financing, and the commission will conduct trade missions.
Assistance in formulating new products will also be available from Oregon State University food scientists as part of a program funded by the commission.
For example, OSU experts can help processors figure out how to repurpose their existing equipment for a new product.
“These companies are often not big enough to have paid product development staff, so we step in and help them with that,” said Lisbeth Goddik, a food science professor and dairy specialist at OSU.
Experts can also conduct shelf life testing to determine the “use by” date for products and help processors find the best sources of ingredients.
Goddik expects to work with three processors at a time, with companies cycling through the program as their projects are completed.
“We are hoping to see more innovative dairy products produced in Oregon,” she said.
Rod Volbeda, owner of the Willamette Valley Cheese Co., said he will use the OSU program to study the process of making Greek yogurt.
Experimenting at his facilities near Salem, Oregon, would require working on a larger scale and buying more ingredients.
The OSU food science lab will let him try out small batches to perfect the process.
“It’s a nice place to try something like that before we put it in a retail setting,” Volbeda said.