CDE tackles declining milk sales
|Approximately 75 people from all facets of the dairy industry convened at the Farm Show Complex Tuesday, December 4 for the Center for Dairy Excellence annual partners meeting, where the highlight was to overcome Pennsylvania’s slippage in milk production and cow numbers to be confident in a bright future here. The morning producer panel is shown here (l-r) Kristen Bigelow, John Clowney and Tim Kurtz. They talked about what keeps them confident and passionate about dairying in Pennsylvania and how the Center’s tools like dairy profit teams, transformation teams, dairy decision consultants and youth internship programs helped them move forward in dairy.|
By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine
HARRISBURG, Pa. – While the Center for Dairy Excellence annual partners meeting earlier this month was geared to the strategies for positioning producers to make more milk in Pennsylvania, Dr. John Stanton of Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, turned the equation upside down with his opening statement: “I’m a marketing guy, and I want to sell more milk.”
The food marketing professor was one of five research partners in the Center’s Dairy Futures Analysis, which began last year and was previewed at the Dec. 4 meeting here at the Farm Show Complex.
Looking at fluid milk sales in Pennsylvania, he said the forecast is “nothing in store… just a decline.”
That is… if nothing is done to change the course of decline.
Stanton’s food marketing research shows that milk has the benefits people are looking for and “it’s our obligation to remind them,” he said. “They (consumers) have no obligation to remember. That's why we need the label to shout the benefits of milk.”
He explained that the milk package, or label, is what consumers see every time they walk by the dairy case, every time they pick up the product, every time they open the refrigerator at home, and every time they pull out the product and pour.
Dr. Stanton has a big problem with white space, and his research showed consumers are more likely to buy milk in packaging that is colorful and says something positive about the product.
“Any background we showed them was more appealing than a plain background,” he said, adding that they were four times more likely to buy milk that had a claim on the label than milk with no claim on the label.
Two claims that stood out were “quality” and “origin.” Consumers indicated their preferences for milk that was fresh, of high quality, and from local farmers.
“Telling people the milk is locally produced was really important to them,” Stanton elaborated.
The research concluded that the label is an area where the industry has been silent and that it pays to be creative and use positive claims to attract consumers to milk, or back to milk. “Our competition takes advantage of their label and we need to do that too,” said Stanton.
Stanton’s part in the Futures Analysis spurred many questions from the partners attending the Center’s meeting. Producers in the audience wanted to know “what magic bullet can we use to get processors to improve the labels?”
Retailers are part of this discussion because many have their own private label store brand packaged for them. Often, they can choose a smaller label area to keep packaging price down, or the processors offer label options that are restrictive to keep their costs down.
Without a doubt, the milk industry could benefit from using its packaging and label to remind consumers about the benefits of milk. And the packaging could certainly benefit from more color – mainly because milk has been thrown into an ever-shrinking allotment of space within a dairy case that contains and ever-growing variety of milk-look-alikes, alternative protein drinks, fruit smoothies and other beverages with splashy and attractive labels, and claims about flavor, nutrition, quality and origin that entice consumers to select them over the original one-and-only dairy milk.
The other side of the fluid milk sales coin is flavor. While the color, claims and content of the packaging were the topic of focus in the preview of the milk sales portion of the Center’s Dairy Futures Analysis, some members of the audience also noted the importance of serving milk that tastes good in our schools so as not to lose future consumers because their early milk experiences are less than desirable.
Dr. Stanton said that is another area of innovation for the milk industry and he predicted that kid- and teen-friendly flavored milks will be the wave of the future.