DMI-led, DFA-made: ‘siips’ is new ‘teen milk’, but…

But… when given the opportunity, teens choose regular fresh whole milk

siips: Siimply Perfect. Real Milk. Real Good. You Be You. These are the descriptive taglines for SIIPS, a shelf-stable, aseptically-packaged, ultrapasteurized, lowfat milk packaged by DFA in an 8-oz. aluminum can as a new “teen milk” based on DMI’s research of what it takes to make milk relevant to teens again. And DMI says more ‘innovations’ or ‘reinventions’ or ‘relevant products’ are on the way from other partners. All of this money and time spent to answer a question teens and pre-teens and elementary-aged students could have told us quickly, cheaply and easily, given the opportunity to choose whole milk – without the fancy packaging and processing that puts it neatly into a global supply chain instead of a local or regional fresh food system.

By Sherry Bunting (Farmshine, Nov. 13, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – On one hand they say they are not involved in reinventing school milk and then, well, they say they are.

Siips is the new low-fat, shelf-stable grab-and-go “teen milk” from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). According to Dairy Management Inc (DMI), checkoff led the way on the innovation and test launch in selected locations over summer.  

Siips is a result of DMI’s fluid milk revitalization efforts and is targeted to improving the youth milk experience with relevant packaging and flavors,” according to a recent edition of Your Checkoff News.

During last week’s Center for Dairy Excellence industry conference call, a portion of the hour was devoted to questions and answers with DMI leaders, and we learned more about revitalization, innovation, and reinvention.

According to Paul Ziemnisky, executive vice president for global innovation partnerships at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), DMI has been working since last summer to “understand perceptions of milk in schools.”

He said products like siips represent what DMI has learned from students in a variety of demographics so that milk can compete again.

Siips is grab-and-go milk in an aluminum 8-oz. can in the flavors of caramel, mocha and chocolate,” he explained. “Products like this will make milk competitive in the school ala carte area, and we are working with other partners for other ala carte grab and go products.”

Ziemnisky noted that DMI is also working with processors and technology companies to develop dispensers like those used in foodservice where students can choose their milk ‘formula’ or ‘flavors’. He said Covid set the test launch back for those, but they are coming.

The bottom line is, he said: “We are looking at new packaging systems… aseptic sustainable packaging, all in the process of starting up. We are working with the industry to line up 6 to 7 tests in key systems to create a catalytic effect across the whole industry.”

A dairy producer submitted this question: “We are seeing grants from checkoff to develop a ‘kids milk’ at Cornell. We already have a ‘kids milk.’ It is called whole milk. We are frustrated. Why would our checkoff spend money on this rather than spending money to get whole milk back in schools?”

DMI president Barb O’Brien replied that she is “not familiar with the ‘kids milk’ project. We are not involved in specialized formulation for school milk,” she said. “But we can tell you about the research programs we have invested in.”

Ziemnisky picked up from there to explain that, “Everything we do has to start with consumers to make sure what we do is relevant.”

He said DMI’s partners, including MilkPEP, are the experts in marketing and advertising while DMI is the expert on consumer research and insights.

O’Brien and Ziemnisky explained that what DMI does is “back-end strategy with brands to advance U.S. Dairy’s priorities.”

They said the brand partners spend “10 to 20 times our investment in bringing to market these innovations.”

“Three years ago, the milk revitalization alliance was formed,” said Ziemnisky. “By partnering with brands, we unlock new platforms and then leverage that to access their customers.”

O’Brien said that’s how DMI has managed what is essentially a $300 million state and national budget to become the equivalent of $3 billion in consumer access and increased per capita dairy sales.

Ziemnisky reported that whole milk sales grew by $1.8 billion on a value basis over the past five years to 41% of net sales at retail. He owed this to what he said were DMI’s “57 whole milk studies.”

(We can’t find any whole milk studies on the list of 57 studies, just a few studies related to full-fat cheese.)

The problem with 40 years of declining overall fluid milk sales, said Ziemnisky is that “the sector has gone 40 years without innovation.”

(The sector has also gone 40 years under what have become increasingly fat-restrictive USDA enforcement of its Dietary Guidelines, but that wasn’t mentioned.)

Ziemnisky pointed out that the gains made in whole milk sales have come at the expense of fat-free milk sales.

“We have a fix for that too,” he said. “Our goal is to make milk relevant again with high protein, low carb, portability, as well as reinvention at schools, foodservice and e-commerce to fit changing consumer lifestyles.”

As for the simple choice of whole milk in schools? DMI leaders were asked if they would fund and support a research trial like the one done last year at one middle/high school in Pennsylvania showing 65% gains in milk sales and sustainable reductions in waste of 95%.

O’Brien was “thrilled” to hear about that study and said exceptions can be granted for research, but quickly turned the conversation over to Ziemnisky to talk about the research and innovation of school milk DMI is already investing in.

Look for more in the next edition on DMI’s partnership with DFA on plant-based blends – why and how and other topics.

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