Staff and board members from Dairy Management Inc, which manages a major portion of the dairy checkoff funding, were in Madison, Wis., last week at the World Dairy Expo to share the successes of the checkoff program with dairymen.
The program’s mission is to up the sales of dairy products and encompasses a wide range of activities in promotion, research and education.
Dairymen board members, however, were focused on telling other producers of the gains the checkoff has made through its strategic partnerships with well-known, quick-serve restaurants and food brands, said Brad Scott, a DMI board member and San Jacinto, Calif., dairyman.
Back in 2006, DMI changed its strategic plan from mainly generic advertising to the public to a business-to-business model to directly increase dairy sales at the point of sale, said David Pelzer, DMI’s senior vice president of industry image and relations.
Those strategic partners include McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Quaker in an effort to get more products containing dairy on the menu and increase the use of dairy in the home.
The partnerships are steeped in communication, information, innovation and technical support, even so far as embedding DMI dairy scientists and nutritional advisors at the partners’ headquarters, Pelzer said.
The partnership plan began with McDonald’s and single-serve, resealable plastic containers of milk. The success of those sales led to the development of coffee drinks, smoothies, yogurt and ice cream offerings and expanded cheese options on sandwiches — all utilizing more dairy.
The partnership with McDonald’s — which embedded four dairy scientists, a dietitian and a marketer at the company’s headquarters — resulted in additional sales of 1.7 billion pounds of milk from 2009 to 2012.
Having DMI experts there every day helps McDonald’s develop more menu items that include dairy. That helps the company’s sales and increases the dairy industry’s sales of dairy products, Pelzer said.
McDonald’s success in boosting its sales with dairy has a ripple effect, both in its own menu development and the menu development of its competitors. And dairymen’s checkoff dollars are reaping a larger benefit above and beyond McDonald’s, he said.
DMI’s partnerships with Domino’s and Taco Bell, both passionate and innovative companies, has resulted in menu items that use a lot more cheese, which makes the items tastier and more appealing to their customers, Scott said.
Taco Bell is the largest Mexican quick-serve chain in the country and has a lot of influence and exposure. Not only is the company promoting items with more cheese, it wants to expand its menu to include desserts, beverages and breakfast items that use dairy products, he said.
Domino’s has reinvented itself based on pizzas with more and more cheese and is developing a pizza product for schools, he said.
DMI has also partnered with Quaker in its “Make it with Milk” campaign, promoting using milk to make oatmeal. In a pilot test of the promotion in 1,300 Safeway grocery stores, Safeway saw its sales of fluid milk increase 5 percent, he said.
In all the partnerships, the dairy checkoff has allowed milk producers to be involved and have a seat at the table of those companies’ research and development efforts, Scott said.
And dairymen are getting the benefit of those companies’ advertising dollars promoting menu items that include dairy without having to fund it, Pelzer said.
The success of the strategic partnerships illustrates the benefits of DMI’s change in direction, providing a roadmap for moving forward, Scott said.