Reprinted from FARMSHINE, April 8, 2016
Fewer Americans eat breakfast today, adding to the milk consumption woes created when families stopped eating sit-down dinners, for the most part. Both were the staples of commodity fluid milk consumption that have been diminishing over the past two generations and four decades to where we are today.
Forecasters say it will only get worse. They are projecting continued declines in ‘white milk’ consumption while consumption of milk alternatives is predicted to increase dramatically through 2021.
A major reason is that the majority of urban consumers — up to 90% — do not view white milk (aka Vit. D whole milk) as a protein drink, when clearly it is the original, the natural protein drink.
But what is DMI working on? Alternatives. Checkoff dollars continue to flow through DMI to alternatives milks. Yes they are dairy products, but they are further processed, as in the case of Fairlife, which is ultrafiltered, for example.
I have had dairymen involved in these boards excitedly tell me: “We finally have a product consumers want!”
If they are referring to Fairlife, that may be true for consumers we’ve lost to Muscle Milk (which does contain some whey) or Almondmilk (which is the equivalent of eating an almond and chasing it with water full of thickeners, sugar and chemically added calcium and vitamins.)
But I find myself confused. Isn’t dairy promotion supposed to promote what contributes most to the dairy farmer’s milk check? I mean, it is the dairy farmer’s money, is it not?
As long as the Federal Order milk pricing scheme puts the value on Class I utilization, then the milk checkoff organizations should be most diligently promoting regular, straight-from-the-cow (pasteurized of course and maybe even flavored) milk as the healthy high-protein beverage it is, naturally, because I’m sorry to tell you friends, consumers just don’t know this information.
Milk: The protein drink that’s right under our noses and costs a lot less than fancy packaged and advertised alternatives — some of them complete frauds in that they are not even milk!
Why is it that milk alternatives can claim all sorts of things, but milk is not even allowed to advertise itself as 96.5% fat free! Why can’t the milk bottle say “8 times more protein than almondmilk per 8 oz serving!”
Why can’t it say: “Want Protein? Get Milk!”
Do we really need Coca Cola to revolutionize our branding? Or should dairy farmers take the bull by the horns and demand great packaging, savvy catch phrases, eye-catching point-of-purchase education, head-on comparisons to the fraudulent beverages that so wish to be milk that they call themselves milk.
No, USDA does not allow dairy farmers to promote their product comparatively with those other commodities that have stolen some of their market share by stealing the name milk. You dairy folks must play nice of course!
That’s hardly fair since dairymilk is losing market share. If you can’t defend your own market turf with your own collected monies, then what’s the point of collecting the money? All of these joint partnerships to sell cheese on pizza and mixes through frappes at McDonalds might move some more milk, but the value is in the Class I fluid milk, so unless we’re going to change the complicated milk pricing formula and glean more value and a guaranteed minimum for the manufacturing milk via its products, then we might just as well use the money to buy-back our own fluid milk and donate it to the poor to keep the demand for Class I tight vs. the supply.
Or put the money in a kitty to develop better fluid milk labels. Make them cool and splashy with P-R-O-T-E-I-N in large letters.
Milk: The original protein drink!
Milk: Protein drink of champions!
Milk: Why pay more? We’ve got what your looking for!
I could go on all day.
If the growth of our Class I milk markets rely on the USDA school lunch program, then we’re sunk and USDA is once again to blame for this dismal failure by tying the hands of school districts who want to serve 2% and whole milk.
Analysts say that the strong growth in the milk markets of emerging countries like Chile is attributed to their school milk programs.
In the U.S., milk is stigmatized as a “commodity.” We sure don’t help that with plain white bottles and lackluster graphics.
Milk alternatives such as soymilk and almondmilk (aren’t they so tricky in creating their own new words by paring their commodity to the word milk as one word) are increasingly viewed as ‘fashionable drinks’ and a more health-conscious choice compared to white milk.
Let’s reverse this trend by making dairymilk fashionable again!
Let’s call it dairymilk (a tricky combined word!) and come up with a new standard of identity that allows us to say 96.5% fat free instead of “whole.”
Maybe even come up with a standard for protein and say to call it dairymilk it must meet that protein standard and then colorfully package and protein-promote the heck out of it.
Analysts say that consumers like innovation in their drinks and they are finding “innovation” in the “newer milk categories” which are so much more attractive than the “mature” white milk category.
Okay then, let’s give the consumer what they want. Great tasting real milk but let’s reinvent the packaging and the promotion and the name… not the beverage itself.
Just think how much money we can save on fancy equipment if all we have to do is reinvent the promotion of milk, not reinvent the milk itself. After all, it is nature’s most nearly perfect food.
Maybe instead of fighting each other for Class I sales by moving milk all over to get the best price and utilization (see chart on page 13 showing that picture for the beleagured Northeast Order)… we should be fighting, instead, together, to save our beverage from its continued depreciation at the hands of internal politics, external politics, USDA rules upon rules, fraudulent not-milk-milks whom regulators ignore and even patronize, and other assorted casts of characters.