Though dairy prices continue to be serious concern, it did not slow down participants and exhibitors at the 2018 Spring Dairy Expo this weekend. Dale Minyo caught up Scott Higgins and Jenny Hubble with the American Dairy Association Mideast to get an update on efforts to continue expanding markets.
“It was a little chilly but a good weekend for dairy farmers to be at Spring Dairy Expo,” Hubble said. “There are three days of events and exhibit numbers are up this year.”
The Spring Dairy Expo provides an opportunity for ADA Mideast to update dairy farmers of the work being done to market the continually expanding dairy production in Ohio and around the country.
“We have been working hard to increase demand and trust for dairy foods. We don’t do what we traditionally used to do. We aren’t doing television advertising like we did back in the ‘Got Milk’ days. We are doing things like working within our school environment to create life-long milk drinkers and looking for ways we can provide new consumption opportunities with innovative products to encourage dairy consumption across the board,” Hubble said. “There has been a great surge in yogurt and yogurt products — Greek yogurt is big. And everyone loves cheese on everything. Milk is also a great ingredient for all kinds of healthy beverages that are out there today. A latte, for example, is at least half milk and is a great way to get your dairy. Chocolate milk is a great recovery beverage for adults working out because of the protein-carbohydrate ratio and white milk is a great beverage to choose because of its protein levels.”
One of the key parts of expanding markets is working with well-known brands interested in providing the products consumers demand.
“The vision we have had is to find brand partners who know and understand what consumers want. Whether Wendy’s or McDonald’s or Pizza Hut or Domino’s or a brand you buy at the store, we are going to work with and through those brand partners to help them innovate and meet consumer demand we may not even realize that exits,” Higgins said. “These brands are about serving their customers great tasting foods as a part of their daily menu. We invest in consumer analytics to find unmet demand and opportunity for products that don’t even exist today. That is the future of where we are going. Domino’s has been incredibly responsive and the consumers love it. Pizza Hut followed up as well and is adding 25% more cheese to its pizzas. We have 28 new menu items that include dairy in them at McDonald’s.”
As markets have grown through the years, though, so has milk production.
“We have been growing dairy product sales for the last 20 years exponentially, but at this time we have a little more milk than we need and farmers are not able to experience their price per hundredweight that they really deserve,” Higgins said. “When I started working for dairy farmers back in 1984 we were in a surplus situation of over 18 billion pounds. That is when the checkoff program started. Since that time dairy farmers dug in and invested 15 cents and we have grown the category to where we are selling 218 billion pounds to the consuming public. That is huge growth. But we are capable of producing a lot more milk in the U.S. Our dairy farmers are incredibly efficient and they produce a high quality product.”
The incredible milk production in the U.S. creates challenges but also more marketing opportunities through exports.
“We realize we need to be actively selling our foods around the world. There are countries that need American dairy foods. We have been making those inroads we’ve been opening up those doors and negotiating to open up those markets. This last year, 14.7% of the milk produced in the U.S. was sold internationally,” Higgins said. “With our brands transforming that milk into international marketing opportunities, we hope to increase utilization of milk by 5%. We’re doing that with our brand partners that can create those products to meet the expectations in those world markets and we are working as dairy farmers to help them get that done. Most of our partners are U.S. based, but there are a lot of companies worldwide that are interested in what the U.S dairy industry has. We are investing in putting people in strategic positions worldwide to make that happen.”