By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Everybody knows "happy cows" come from California and "dairyland" and "cheese heads" refer to Wisconsin, but Idaho's huge dairy industry is still in search of an identity.
Idaho ranks third in the nation in both milk production and cheese manufacturing, and dairy is the state's highest economic producing ag sector. Yet the success of Idaho's dairy industry and its contribution to the state's economy and consumers all over the world has escaped public recognition.
The identity of the state's dairy industry is on the minds of many processors and producers, and the Idaho Milk Processors Association invited the chief of dairy promotions in California to share the details of that successful program at IMPA's annual convention in Sun Valley.
"At the core of absolutely everything we do is grow demand for California dairy," said Stan Andre, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board.
The CMAB team does that by promoting California dairy products domestically and internationally and getting the Real California Dairy seal and Real California Cheese seal on as many products as possible.
With California producing a big portion -- now 21 percent -- of the U.S. milk supply, the industry there realized it needed to help get product to market and build demand, Andre said.
The advisory board was established by dairymen in 1969 and funded by an assessment on their milk -- 15 years before the National Dairy Checkoff came into play -- and was organized as a marketing order under the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The assessment was originally a small percentage of milk value. When the national checkoff came along, the assessment changed to 15 cents per hundredweight, but the advisory board was able to retain 10 cents of that assessment as a qualified program, he said.
The program started with in-state promotion but outgrew that limited focus about 13 years ago as milk production increased.
"We had to get good at taking product out of state," Andre said.
The board revved up its program and began promoting California dairy products across the country and now has strong promotion and sales all over the U.S. and in Mexico and the Pacific Rim, he said.
The board works with every sector in the chain, from dairymen and processors to wholesalers, distributors and retailers and has programs for consumers, Andre said.
"You have to work with everybody in the supply chain to make it work. Communications are very, very important," he said.
The organization is kept lean by design, with a small, integrated team to get goals accomplished, he said.
The team focuses on advertising and promotions through national TV advertising, digital advertising, strong social media and retail and foodservice in-store promotions. It also stays engaged in consumer issues management, consumer outreach and trade show outreach.
The team maintains strong processor relationships and develops partnerships in national and international sales with programs for foodservice, retail and the bakery industry.
CMAB has retail and foodservice teams all over the country and local representation in Mexico and most countries in the Pacific Rim.
Its promotional reach has grown over the years, and Andre said he doesn't think CMAB could accomplish what it's doing with one penny less than the 10 cent assessment.