MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Healthy cattle on summer pasture. That’s the scene that makes Alan Kozak happy. That, and some of the exciting new things he and his wife Sharon are doing with the high-quality milk from their 429 Jersey cows at Clover Patch Dairy here in Holmes County, Ohio. Alan credits Sharon as the “calf […]They have a knack for niches, and the #4 GJPI herd in the nation — Profiles in comfort and quality
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019
CHICAGO, Ill. – ‘Proprietary’ describes much of what the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy initiates as a checkoff-funded industry collaboration under the umbrella of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).
Some of that work is so proprietary, even the 81 voting DMI board members don’t see details as they vote to approve partnerships, new product developments, promotion grants to launch new products, as well as the ‘sustainability’ initiatives and alliances that come from this collaboration and filter down as requirements for all dairy farms through their respective processor and cooperative milk buyers via the FARM program.
Board members are quick to point out that USDA and DMI attorneys are privy to proprietary details that are kept confidential. They point out that food industry partners and processors must show they are investing more than they are receiving, and that their “innovation” has potential to be a ‘catalyst’ for others to follow.
DMI describes program accomplishments in the IRS 990 form, specifying that, “DMI partners with foodservice industry leaders to help create dairy-based innovation to drive dairy sales and build trust in dairy products.”
The description details the way partnerships are boosting dairy use, especially cheese, by restaurant chains.
At the same time, DMI describes its strategy to revitalize fluid milk by ‘reinventing the consumer milk experience.’ (Reinventing milk was examined in a separate article in the August 23 edition of Farmshine.)
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (under the official tax-exempt name of “Dairy Center for Strategic Innovation and Collaboration, doing business as Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy”) fuels these partnerships with mandatory checkoff funds and is the place where these partnerships are born from the board of DMI staff and processor / co-op chairs and CEOs. (See related article).
Here, we examine the mainly cheesey partnerships DMI has pursued since 2009-10. That is the year in which the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy was formed under DMI.
In 2017, (DMI) had four domestic, U.S.-focused partners: Dominos, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and McDonalds. Based upon the success of our U.S. partnerships with Yum! Brands, which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, we expanded our partnership focus and added two pilot international partnerships in 2017 — KFC, focused on Latin America and Pizza Hut, focused on Southeast Asia.
“The goal of the international partnerships is to increase U.S. Dairy Exports to these markets,” the DMI 990 form states. “DMI partners with these large catalytic companies because they are industry leaders who have the potential to deliver incremental and sustainable dairy sales. Moreover, these partners are closely watched by others in foodservice. Their innovation, whether product-based or technology based, created a catalytic effect, where others follow their actions. These partners were chosen because they commit to invest in innovation and marketing in support of dairy-based products: and they are willing to partner on other dairy industry priorities.”
According to the report, DMI supports a range of programs and initiatives with these influential and global foodservice industry leaders. The programs focus on providing dairy expertise and investment in the areas of consumer insights, new product development, new store and new technology testing, consumer communications and corporate social responsibility. Further, DMI provides on-site scientists and/or culinary experts who lead product development of dairy-based food and beverage products.
The main agencies of DMI handling these proprietary partnerships are the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), which are both listed under the control of DMI on the form and are both under the leadership of former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
DMI also “provides expertise and consultants in the areas of marketing, consumer insights and research, nutrition, sustainability, animal care, food safety, regulatory environment and dairy communications.”
As a signal of success, DMI states that dairy is represented in 70% of their collective menu items among these partners and that these partners spent $11.1 billion between 2012 and 2017, collectively, on advertising their menus, including items that are “dairy-based” like pizza, tacos, ice cream and coffee drinks. But there is no data on how much of the total $11.1 billion was spent on actually advertising the dairy-based menu items.
DMI states that since these partnerships began in 2009, the combined milk equivalent tonnage of these partners, collectively, “has grown by 2.2 billion milk pounds, averaging 4% growth per year (since 2009).”
This is close to the overall global trend of 3% growth in cheese consumption annually.
In the 990 discussion, specific menu items are noted as examples, as well as how ice cream and cheese are reformulated by in-house experts provided by DMI.
Working with Domino’s, DMI helped “create the ‘Smart Slice’ School Pizza, which was in more than 10,500 schools by 2017 and meets the USDA dietary guidelines for being fat-free or lower in fat than regular cheese pizza.”
Also in 2017, Dominos began promoting awareness of the Undeniably Dairy campaign by including “farmer messaging” on 7 million pizza boxes weekly nationwide. DMI states that this “helped Dominos grow milk equivalent tonnage by 8.5% in 2017.”
DMI also partnered with Pizza Hut on the “cheese in more places” products, including the Ultimate Cheesy Crust Pizza with 16 pockets stuffed with nearly one pound of cheese.
As for Taco Bell, DMI states that this partnership has helped the restaurant chain evolve in how they use dairy, from incorporating it as a garnish to being more of a key ingredient …growing their milk equivalent tonnage by 7% in 2017.
However, partners like Taco Bell have also initiated “stealth health” menu-boarding since 2017, to encourage customers to consider condiments other than cheese and sour cream, such as salsa and pico de gala. And partner McDonald’s removed the ‘cheeseburger’ option from the Happy Meal menu last year. A customer can ask for a slice of cheese on the burger, but that option does not appear on the menu board. It’s called “stealth health.”
As for the international partnerships, DMI states that U.S. cheese sales at Pizza Hut Asia Pacific increased 29% in 2017. In fact, DMI leaders communicate that consumers in China, for example, look to the U.S. with confidence in food safety. They say their market research shows that the larger and more technologically progressive our farms are here, the happier moms are to buy U.S. dairy there. In fact, dairy checkoff leaders note in communications that small farms with older facilities conger-up images of concern for consumers in China who have not forgotten their 2014 melamine scare, which the Chinese government ultimately blamed on milk handlers for the network of small farms in China.
While cheese sales increased through these partnerships from 2009 through 2017, according to DMI, fluid milk sales declined even faster in those years than the 30-year trendline
Global supply chain structures also became more prominent as multi-national dairy ingredient suppliers connect with DMI partner-brands.
On the fluid milk side, DMI’s stated goal is to “reinvent the milk experience for consumers.” At the same time, the overall goals are focused on dairy innovation via business plans and structures that are more global in nature, focus on foodservice chains that represent domestic and overseas markets and utilize further processed, reformulated, and blended dairy ingredients while also creating menu items that use these proprietary ingredients to fit USDA’s low-fat dietary guidelines as the restaurant trade moves into ‘stealth health’ mode.
By Sherry Bunting
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s a roar not soon forgotten when the field of 33 drivers rounds the curve to the paddock straightaway and the pace car exits the track. The thrill of the Indianapolis 500 is unmatched in motorsports, and the refreshing, replenishing, refueling and revered beverage associated with this great race is MILK — Real Dairy Milk!
For 103 years, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a patriotic display, Blue Angels fly-over, recognition of our military and moment of silence for our fallen precede the 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
And for 83 years, the legendary race is complete with the ice cold Drink of Milk in Victory Circle — deemed the “coolest trophy in sports”, awarded for the “greatest spectacle in racing,” also known as the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
Dave Forgey of Logansport was an Indy500 spectator for years before having the chance to be the ‘Milkman.’ As a dairy farmer he was enthusiastic when the Indiana milk promotion board began choosing dairy farmers, instead of executives, to be the ones to give the famed bottle of milk to the winning driver each year. After serving as the ‘rookie’ in 2011, he was lead Milkman in 2012.
“As dairy farmers, we bring a personal touch to the award, that brings it to the common level of the fans. At the end of the race, the Milk is always first,” said Forgey with a broad grin standing in front of the IMS Pagoda race day morning talking to fans in 2012.
The job of the Indy500 Milkmen (or women) begins long before Sunday, and continues throughout the year in venues such as Rotary Club presentations and small town parades, as well as other competitive events that capitalize on the Winners Drink Milk slogan of American Dairy Association Indiana.
By Sunday, the Milkmen are focused on keeping the Milk iced for Victory Lane and promoting milk and dairy farming to race-day fans. They ask all the drivers to choose between Whole, 2% and fat-free and have those selections ready since they don’t know who the winner will be. Whole milk has been topping the choices 2 to 1 over the past few years, and two top drivers, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe in 2019 said they would return to the buttermilk choice of 3x winner Louis Meyer in 1936, if it were an option!
In short, the Indy500 milkmen are charged with protecting the future of this unique sports award ruled tops for its “cool factor” according to Sports Illustrated writer Pete McEntegart, who in his si.com column ranked milk #1 among the Sports World’s top-10 unique trophies.
And in a recent interview, champions rate the Milk as the top tradition of this famed race that is certainly steeped in many traditions.
“It is certainly a tradition that everyone respects. What else can we do that is this national and international in scope?” Forgey observes. He said he came home to find an email from a friend in New Zealand who saw the whole thing on television.
“The fans are interested. They want to talk about our dairy farms,” says Forgey. When fans realized he was giving the bottle of mlk, they wanted to know how he qualified for the job. When Forgey explained that he and his rookie are Indiana dairy farmers, the fans were eager to know more. Of course, they also want to see the milk. Standing by the milkmen in front of the IMS Pagoda on race day morning, enthusiasm for “the milk” is evident. Fans paused to take pictures, and ask questions.
“There is always a lot of excitement for the milk among the racing fans,” says Forgey. “They know the tradition. They know about the milk. And when we can help them connect it back to the farmer, that generates interest.”
Initiated 83 years ago when the first three-time winner, Louis Meyer, asked for buttermilk to quench his thirst after the grueling 500-mile race, the Drink of Milk tradition has endured. Today, scientific evidence shows Louis Meyer knew what he was doing back in 1936, when he turned after that grueling race to the unique, natural and un-matched combination of hydrating re-fuel found in Real Dairy Milk with it’s healthy maitrix of fat, protein, carbohydrate, a dozen essential nutrients and refreshment. In fact, in those days, buttermilk was the name given to full-fat milk with extra heavy cream! Today’s drivers tend to choose Whole Milk (standardized at 3.25% fat) more than the reduced fat (2%) or fat-free options.
ADA Indiana coordinates the Indy500 Drink of Milk promotion today, and 45 years ago they added to the heritage by sponsoring the “Fastest Rookie” award on the Tuesday before the big race. The coveted award recognizes the first-year driver who achieves the fastest four-lap average speed from among fellow rookie competitors during time trials.
“The rookies are very interested in the milk and getting their pictures taken with the milk,” says Forgey.
Fast forward to 2016 with the 100th running of the Indy500 and what a celebration it was! Nearly half a million people attended in person. To put this into perspective, the largest-ever attendance of the NFL Superbowl was just over 100,000 people. The 100th running of the Indy500 in 2016 clocked in at 350,000 in the gates and another estimated 100,000 outside the gates just wanting to “be there.”
Prairie Farms, American Dairy Association Indiana and the IMS together gave commemorative, specially-packaged bottles of milk to fans for a winning milk toast and they were available in stores throughout the region.
After 500 miles, 200 laps, 54 lead changes and 13 different leaders, the winning of the 100th Indy500 came down to a fuel strategy that put Alexander Rossi — the 9th rookie ever, and the first since 2001 — into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the sweet taste of victory — the 80th traditional ice cold drink of milk, delivered in 2016 by Milkwoman Janet Dague, a dairy farmer from Kewana, Indiana and rookie Joe Kelsay of Kelsay Farms, Whiteland.
“I was so excited to see our rookie win the 500,” said Dague, an avid race fan and dairy farmer after delivering the Drink of Milk to Rossi in Victory Circle. “I was jumping up and down, cheering when he crossed the finish line. I even said to Joe ‘I told you I wanted our rookie to win!’
By “our rookie,” Dague was referring to Rossi earning the 42nd Fastest Rookie award given annually by the ADA-Indiana at a special dairy-and-racing-focused luncheon on the Tuesday before the race. There, Rossi was honored as the qualifying rookie with the fastest 4-lap average speed on qualification day, at an average 228 mph.
Dague described Rossi as “so gracious about winning. I think because of the rookie luncheon that just took place, he understood how important this was for the ADA-Indiana and every other dairy farmer around the world,” she explained. “In every picture, he made sure to take a drink of the milk and even made sure our logo was facing front and center. We couldn’t ask for a better spokesperson.”
The whole crew was celebrating that win with their milk, along with race fans given commemorative bottles on the 100th anniversary. Owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta were toasting each other, drinking their milk. Andretti, in particular, was happy to taste the elusive beverage right from driver Rossi’s official bottle while Rossi did his victory interview with ESPN, and their chief mechanic was next for the taste of victory!
Rookie Milkman Kelsay was excited to be there for the first time with the Drink of Milk in that 100th year of the Indy500.
“To have the spotlight shine on the nutrition of milk in this way is just awesome,” he said during the parade honoring military and the heritage of the race on the day before. “It is an honor to represent fellow dairy farmers who are back home milking and feeding and listening to the race on the radio. It has been a humbling experience so far. It seems as important to the fans as it is to dairy farmers. Even one of the police officers mentioned what an honor it was to meet us, saying he would be sure to keep me safe if something happens.
“We just thank Louis Meyer for starting this trend over 80 years ago that we can highlight the healthy choice of milk and deliver that message to a global audience here at the Indy500,” Kelsay adds.
“What better way could we as dairy farmers promote our product than to be out in the forefront of this event, which is so significant worldwide?” says Forgey, who appreciated the honor of spending 2011 and 2012 representing the dairy farmers in Indiana and across the U.S., who work hard to produce a healthy product.
After all, #WinnersDrinkMilk because #RealMilkAlwaysWins #TasteTheVictory
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, March 8, 2019
BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — In Part 7 last week, we looked at some of the questions still unanswered by DMI regarding GENYOUth. As noted, a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) created in 2009-10 and signed in 2011 by USDA, National Dairy Council and the NFL has not been provided.
Data requested on the “before” and “after” purchases of dairy by FUTP60 schools has also not been provided.
The question about total funds provided by DMI in addition to what appears on the GENYOUth 990 form has also not been answered. However, the 2016-17 DMI audit reflects amounts that are almost double what appears on the GENYOUth 990s.
And the question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth and any knowledge or concern DMI may have about Edelman’s role in the EAT FReSH Initiative was simply not been acknowledged, let alone answered.
This is the concern that is perhaps most vexing, and here is the what the public record tells us.
Richard Edelman sits on the board of GENYOUth and as previously mentioned, he is credited with recruiting GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick in a marketing publication’s story about her taking this position.
The Edelman firm is listed as a corporate sponsor of GENYOUth, including the board seat held by Richard Edelman, but the firm is not listed as a donor of funds on the GENYOUth IRS 990s, except that Richard Edelman, himself, is on record donating $25,000 in both 2016 and 2017.
Edelman is widely considered the world’s largest and leading public relations and marketing firm with offices worldwide. Based in Chicago, the firm, according to the writings of Richard Edelman himself, has been involved in work for DMI (Dairy Checkoff) for 20 years.
The firm is listed among the 41 corporate sponsors (logos pictured below) of the EAT FReSH Initiative. This Initiative is an extension of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
And, in Edelman’s own words in a May 2018 blog post, “Edelman has partnered with FReSH to help accelerate transformational change in global food systems.”
As reported in Part 6 of this series, Danone and PepsiCo are just two companies among the 41 corporate sponsors that are Edelman clients, and both companies planned new plant-based non-dairy “look-alike” product launches to coincide with the EAT Lancet Commission and EAT FReSH launch in the first quarter of 2019.
Edelman is best known for its annual Edelman Trust Barometer shared with the world’s leading business CEOs each year at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland.
Purpose driven marketing is their thing.
DMI will not acknowledge our question about Edelman’s role in the formation of GENYOUth. Our question about the link between Edelman and the marketing of the EAT FReSH Initiative was also not acknowledged.
However, on the secret Dairy Checkoff facebook page, we have received screenshot copies of answers given to farmers who have asked the checkoff staff questions about this. In those one-to-one facebook group replies, DMI staff are stating on the one hand that “Edelman is not involved in EAT Lancet.” On the other hand, stating that, “we should be glad we have someone representing us there.”
So which is it? And who is representing whom?
What we found in the public record is that Edelman is not, technically, on record as “the” marketing firm for EAT Lancet. The situation is far more subtle, and clever, because Edelman “loaned” their Amersterdam office account director, Lara Luten, to the EAT FReSH initiative for at least one year prior to 2019’s EAT FReSH launch.
This was confirmed in Richard Edelman’s blog post at the company website in May 2018 where he did a series of questions and answers about the work Luten was doing with the EAT FReSH Initiative during her second 6-month “secondment” with EAT FReSH.
A “secondment” is defined as the detachment of a person from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.
In the blog post, Richard Edelman asks the firm’s Amsterdam account director on loan to the EAT FReSH Initiative what has been most interesting in her work with FReSH.
Her answer: “The current (2018) preparations for the EAT Stockholm Food Forum and the EAT Lancet Commission Report. But also: Setting a basis for communications for the FReSH team.”
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
He asks her what she has learned from this partnership that can be applied to other work, and Luten replies: “Working in a pre-competitive environment on a project (EAT FReSH) that is driving impact by leading the change. I’m also gaining in-depth knowledge about the food system (its topics and stakeholders) that will definitely be useful for other projects.”
So not only was the Edelman firm involved, but their involvement is “leading the change.”
In mid-January 2019, at precisely the point in time when the EAT Lancet Commission report was released and the EAT Forum and EAT FReSH Initiatives were launched, Luten left her employment with Edelman to take the job as manager of communications for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
What is the WBCSD? It is described at its website as “ a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business.” It is made up of the 41 corporations, including the Edelman firm, that have launched the EAT FReSH Initiative.
In her new employment as WBCSD communications manager, Luten now carries on the public relations, social strategies and marketing she began planning, organizing and laying the groundwork for during the time that she was employed by Edelman “on secondment” to this 41-corporation group now launching the EAT FReSH Initiative.
It all fits together with how Edelman does business. This is not in any way a question of ethics. Plenty of marketing agencies work for competing accounts in the world of advertising and public relations. There’s nothing new about that.
There’s also nothing new about this concept of working in “pre-competitive” environments where products and marketing are developed in a way that all corporations involved can utilize in their own new product campaigns.
This is, in fact, a signature way that DMI has also functioned over the past 10 years. In addition to GENYOUth, the Sustainability and Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy began similarly with an MOU between DMI and the USDA, and it also includes the participation of dairy processors in a pre-competitive environment to develop and initiate innovations and sustainability measures. One example to come out of that pre-competitive environment is the innovation of ultrafiltered milk known as fairlife. Another example is the F.A.R.M program.
The goal of these pre-competitive collaborations is to give all corporate participants something they can use in a way that takes away a competitive edge.
What is concerning for dairy producers — who are mandatorily funding DMI — is that this has folded dairy promotion into a broader setting of corporations working in pre-competitive environments to pass back through the supply chain requirements about how things are done on the farm.
Toward that end, Edelman has actually played an even larger role in DMI projects over the past 20 years and especially in the past two years in coming up with the design of the Undeniably Dairy campaign. Again, purpose-driven marketing is an Edelman specialty.
And it seems noble to drive marketing with a social purpose. More companies today engage in purpose-driven social marketing, aiming to win consumers by showing what they are doing to address social concerns, such as the environment. In fact, they create problems to fit the solution they want to market.
In its own way, each corporate member of pre-competitive collaborations then capitalizes by introducing products that solve a real or “created” need in this realm of social purpose.
Here’s where it gets cloudy for dairy farmers. The government mandates that dairy farmers pay 15 cents per hundredweight for education, research and promotion. DMI administrates the use of the national portion of these funds and even sets the direction for regional funds — under the ever-more-micro-managing-oversight of USDA via two key MOU’s (GENYOUth and Innovation and Sustainability Center for U.S. Dairy).
DMI’s association with Edelman over 20 years has increased its alignment with purpose-driven marketing via pre-competitive environments with food supply chain corporations. On its surface, that doesn’t sound so bad.
But here’s another way to look at this trend. As one creative strategist, Zac Martin, stated recently in his opinion piece for an ad agency publication, “purpose” was 2018’s “most dangerous word.”
Martin defines “purpose” in marketing in the context of “brands aligning with and promoting social causes, almost always seemingly out of nowhere.”
This is most definitely the road we are on. We are being told that consumers don’t want to know what you know, they want to know that you care. We are told that consumers make brand choices based on the “why” not the “what.”
Some of this comes from the annual Edelman Trust Barometer and other research where consumers are surveyed about who they trust in their buying decisions.
But what information do consumers actually use when they buy? Price, flavor, freshness, perceived nutrition.
Are we part of the problem? Are these alignments helping or hurting the promotion of actual milk?
Think about this. EAT FReSH is just the newest and most transformational example of how a “why” – climate change and the environment – are being used to sell new food products based on their fulfillment of a created “why”.
What could be more perfect than to use unsubstantiated “science” to make untrue claims about certain food and agriculture impacts and then use that as a selling point for a whole new product answering the “why” that has first been created?
The EAT Foundation even has the new “planetary” diet patterns outlined (1 cup of dairy equivalent a day, a little over 1 ounce of meat/poultry/fish a day, and only 3 ounces of red meat per week, and 1 ½ eggs per week for examples). Within that context, the participating corporations are now coming out — simultaneously — with a whole bevy of new beverages, snacks and staples that do not contain any animal protein. Protein is played down and favors plant protein (incomplete proteins) and refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup is just fine.
They’ve created the “why” (planetary boundaries that they have set) and now they can sell consumers the products (fake meat and fake dairy) that fulfill that social planetary purpose that they themselves have convinced us we need!
Looking at this ‘social purpose’ trend in marketing, Zac Martin states the following: “The fad (of purpose-driven marketing) seems to driven by the likes of Simon Sinek, who notoriously said: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ But Simon is wrong. It’s a claim made without substantiation.”
In fact, Martin observes that purpose-driven marketing to is made up of “feel good” stuff that promotes and aligns with social causes while doing little as a sound marketing strategy.
Undeniably Dairy feels good. Telling our “why” feels good. Do consumers need to understand more about what happens on a dairy farm, why we do what we do? Of course! But this does not substitute for sound marketing of the dairy farmers’ product: Milk.
Martin says this trend amounts to “brand noise” that is “a sign of desperation”.
He defines purpose-driven social marketing as “fabricating an experiment, presenting pseudoscience disguised as research,” and all the while appearing “authentic.” (Think EAT FReSH).
He makes the point that when everyone is zigging, maybe it’s time to zag. I could not have said it better myself.
This series of articles is not meant to question the good intent of good people doing what they believe is good for their industry. Rather, the point is to show the direction dairy promotion dollars have taken since 2009 and some of the guiding principles that are not working.
Going back to part one, the graph showing fluid milk consumption trends could not be more clear. What we are doing is not working — unless the objective is to sell less fresh fluid milk, especially whole milk, that returns the highest value to farmers and keeps dairy farms relevant in communities, especially in the eastern states, while selling more global dairy commodities, at cheaper prices, fueling rapid expansion of more consolidated and integrated dairy structures in the western states.
Dairy Checkoff has been aligning more closely to USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines when nothing in the Congressional Act establishing the Checkoff states that it must. Dairy Checkoff has been aligning in pre-competitive environments with corporations that turn around and push us right out of the dairy case with non-dairy alternatives that fill a social purpose of their own creation.
Dairy Checkoff has partnered with fast food chains that help sell more cheese, and yet one pre-emptive cheese company is a primary beneficiary, and rapid milk production expansion in certain states follows with that.
Dairy Checkoff has bought-in to the idea that rapid expansion of exports is a primary mission, when that actually lowers the farm-level milk price because the focus of those sales is the lower-value commodity dairy.
Meanwhile, the marketing largely ignores the best selling point we have: Nutrition and Flavor in the domestic market.
Now the pressure is on for Dairy Checkoff promotion to draw more farms into “telling our story.” As noble and wonderful as this may be, what’s the 15 cents doing to actually sell milk, to win back the milk market we’ve been losing in the process?
We have a simple product. It doesn’t have a list of additives to make it look, feel and sort of taste like milk, it IS milk.
We have a nutritious product. Nothing else on the market comes close.
We have a delicious product. But we have to market the tasteless version and train our children to dislike milk by doing so… because somehow we have ended up in a place where the government’s dietary police are in charge, and we either must obey, or we just think we must.
Telling consumers our ‘why’ can be a good thing, but with 15 cents per hundredweight forked over by farmers by government mandate, the question remains, what is being done to truly sell the “what” — the actual milk that comes out of the cow because of all the good things farmers do.
Consumers don’t know squat about milk. That’s being proven over and over again, despite over $300 million a year in mandatory promotion funds deducted from farmer milk checks for promotion.
We’ve been zigging with the ziggers long enough.
Maybe it’s time to zag.
(The graph below shows us what has happened to per capita real fluid milk consumption since 2010 while we increased the amount of zigging, suggesting it is time to zag.)
Producers unite to send clear message to policymakers and consumers, website takes it to the next level.
By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019
RICHLAND, Pa. — Nelson Troutman has been making the ‘Milk Baleboards’ since January. The Berks/Lebanon County dairy farmer came up with the idea after the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board listening session in December.
“It’s very important that the bales all have the same message: ‘Drink Local Whole MILK — 97% FAT-FREE.’ Don’t try to get funny with it. You could take the ‘local’ off and just focus on the ‘whole milk,’ but mainly to have impact, we want the bales to have the same message,” he said while painting bales in his shop during my visit last Saturday morning to the farm where he and his wife Mary live and which is now rented to a young couple for their dairy herd.
He still farms the land he has lived on his entire life, and he makes the feed for that herd and his son’s herd nearby. (In fact his daughter in law Renee wrote about whole milk recently, with a historical twist!)
Nelson has made 20 Milk Baleboards so far (check out his DIY tips at the end of this story). And he has seen new ones pop up from others following suit.
He has had 10 phone calls from fellow farmers as far away as New York, and has talked to so many more at meetings — out and about. He tells them: “Put a bale out… unless you are satisfied with your milk price.”
Did he think it would take off like it has? “No I didn’t,” he says. But he’s glad to see others joining in and hopes to see it catch on even more.
Retired agribusinessman Bernie Morrissey of Robesonia has been doing all he can to get other agribusinesses to put them out. In addition to Morrissey Insurance having one on their property along Rte 272 north of Ephrata, the Milk Baleboards are popping up along other main routes like 23, 322, and 422, to name a few.
“Our advertising checkoff dollars just didn’t seem to be doing a very good job these past 10 years. They have been promoting fat free and low-fat 1% milk and the fat free yogurt — not much whole milk,” Nelson relates.
“After the listening session with the PMMB, some of us were talking. We thought it was time to do something different, something like letting consumers know whole milk is 97% fat free,” he said further. “We didn’t come up with a plan that day. We were thinking about a billboard, but that was far too expensive. We thought about portable signs.”
Then over the weekend after that December meeting, he looked around. “I thought to myself that I already have the perfect thing: A wrapped hay bale! So, I painted one. I set it in the pasture at our crossroad. We farmers have silos, wagons, barns and sheds we can paint signs on.”
Lots of feedback has come in, and it seemed no one knew whole milk was 97% fat free. Some said “why are we drinking 2% milk, when whole milk tastes so much better?”
Nelson observes that young and older people said they never thought about how much fat or nutrition is in milk. “It seems so sad how people are misled by our checkoff dollars, our doctors and medical people — and our federal dietary guidelines committee.”
He admits that people are easily confused. To be sure, the bales are attracting attention, leading to questions.
While it started out as a way to send a clear and unified message to consumers and especially policymakers, Nelson said the information is so surprising to people that it offers educational opportunities.
That’s why R&J Dairy Consulting invited Nelson and Bernie to a meeting of dairy farmers last Friday to see what could be done to use this teachable moment.
The group decided to purchase a website domain — 97MILK.com, and direct people there to learn more: What is whole milk? How does it compare? What is Real Milk, Local Milk?
The website can help unite these efforts, and bring additional excitement to the project. For example, at the meeting organized by R&J Consulting, their marketing manager Jackie Behr said when she asked peers what questions they have about milk, she ended up with a whole list.
“Let’s use this opportunity to educate consumers and help them make a good choice,” she said. The group decided to start out with key simple answers to frequent questions. Many businesses and people are pulling together in various ways that it is impossible to name them all here. That will come in a future Milk Baleboard update.
Jackie at R&J, with some help from others, got the website 97milk.com up and running within seven days. This includes a facebook page @97Milk, so check it all out!
Want to make a Milk Baleboard? Here are Nelson’s DIY tips:
Covington more optimistic for dairy in 2019
By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, February 1, 2019
EAST EARL, Pa. — Bringing a bit of good news, along with good understanding, of dairy markets, Calvin Covington kicked off R&J Dairy Consulting’s winter dairy seminar Tuesday (Jan. 29) talking about what needs to happen for milk prices to improve.
He had the full attention of the 300 dairy producers who gathered at Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl for the meeting, where they learned that Covington anticipates 2019 Federal Order blend prices in the Northeast to improve by $1.00 to $1.50 in 2019 compared with 2018.
“But it’s going to be a walk, not a run. they will move up gradually,” he said. “Last year, I was pessimistic. This year, I am a lot more optimistic.”
Covington also talked about the “4 C’s” that need tochange as the major factors to improve farm level milk prices: Consumption, Cow numbers, Components and Cooperation.
“The most important is consumption,” said Covington. “What is the consumer telling us?”
He showed a graph of how overall dairy consumption has steadily increased on a solids basis from 2000 though 2018, and he displayed a chart (above) showing that the consumer is telling us they want the milkfat — that it’s the solids in the milk — the bufferfat and protein — that give milk value.
“Exports are growing. That’s where most of our growth in demand has been coming from… but we export commodities — milk powder, whey, lactose,” he said. “We export very little butter and cheese.”
While he said exports are of course important to the milk check, he emphasized the need to focus on domestic demand, which has been overlooked and “presents real opportunity. What can we do to lift domestic demand and make that happen?”
In a word, said Covington: “Milkfat. That’s number one. We in the dairy industry need to talk about milkfat and not hide behind it not wanting things to change. Consumers are a whole lot smarter than we are. They are figuring it out. They are buying more fat… and we need to sell thatt.”
He said that the average fat content of all types of fluid milk sales from fat-free to whole milk — nationwide — is 2%.
“If that moved up by just 1/4 to 1/2 of 1 percent, the difference in farmer milk checks would be substantial. Fluid milk sales have been declining (in total), but whole milk sales are up three years in a row,” Covington explained.
“Consumers want that taste, and we’re not talking about it.”
He also pointed out how per capita butter consumption is at its highest point in over 10 years.
“That’s big, and that’s why the butterfat price in your milk check is double the protein price,” said Covington, explaining that in addition to butter, natural cheeses are one-third fat, that we forget about.
“Natural cheese consumption is higher, but it’s the processed cheeses, that contain less fat, that are moving lower,” he said.
He noted that for many years, the research said fat is bad for us.
“Now smart people are showing this to be false and we have books and articles about how butter, cheese and whole milk are good for us.”
Covington noted that what the industry needs to focus on is giving consumers more of what they want and not being afraid to “sell more fat. That will up your milk price,” he pointed out, encouraging producers to focus on pounds of components because this is the majority of how their milk price is determined.
He shared a story about meeting Queen Elizabeth in England with one of the oldest Jersey herds in the world. Those cows produce more than 6% fat, and that’s what she drinks and she’s 92 years old.
He also observed that the Queen knows as much about cows and agriculture as about anyone he’s met.
Look for more highlights and details from Covington’s fascinating discussions and his 2019 market outlook for the Northeast and the Southeast in a future Farmshine.
Web-based FUTP60’s branding is long on NFL, short on dairy, while funding is long on dairy, short on NFL
By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Feb. 8, 2019
BROWNSTOWN, Pa. — Since 2010, Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) has been GENYOUth’s flagship program, a marriage between the NFL’s Play 60 initiative for students to participate in 60 minutes of exercise daily and the Fuel Up portion touted by DMI and underpinned by USDA, focusing on healthy eating, defined as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, including fat-free and low-fat dairy. This is a program where dairy checkoff outspends the NFL $4 to $1.
In its 2016-18 report “Building the Evidence Base for FUTP60,” published in January 2018 and available here, the FUTP60 program is called “the nation’s largest in-school wellness program with over 73,000 enrolled schools.” The report states further that, “FUTP60 aims to improve K-12 school nutrition and physical activity environments using a student-centered approach and social marketing tactics along with promising practices for creating positive, incremental environmental changes.”
The team regularly tracks key indicators of program reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance, according to the report.
An illustrative infographic documents progress through educator surveys, reporting in January 2018 that of the 38 million students in the 73,000 enrolled schools, 13 million were “actively engaged” in the program.
Under healthy eating, the report states that “because of FUTP60, 14 million students are eating healthier, consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and that 18 million students are more physically active.”
But there are no surveys tracking actual food selections as the impact data are self-reported as “educator insights.”
In fact, all of these numbers are self-reported as the fine print states: “Data are based on a combination of annual FUTP60 Utilization Survey of almost 10,000 educators nationwide, funds for FUTP60 reporting and program enrollment data.”
So, just 10,000 educators are surveyed for the report, but 73,000 schools are said to be enrolled.
According to the Jan. 2018 report, the GENYOUth funding supported the following items in 2016-17: 2333 breakfast carts, 2,338 school kitchen equipment upgrades, 1833 projects to create active classrooms, 244 projects to improve physical education, 1984 school-wide walking clubs, and 741 cafeteria makeovers.”
The report describes the funding as “generously donated by America’s dairy farmers, U.S. corporations, non-profit organizations and philanthropies.” (Table 1).
Peer-reviewed articles mostly studied the design of the program. However, a 4-year (2011-15) review of the impact of FUTP60 was published in the March 2017 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, available here.
The authors studied participants in schools within the 32 NFL franchise markets, including a range of 50,000 to 100,000 students from just 497 schools (not 10,000 nor 73,000 schools). These 497 schools completed FitnessGram assessments annually for 2011-2015. Program participation was not required, and its implementation was evaluated each year through self-reported school surveys.
The study measured the main outcomes of aerobic capacity and Body Mass Index (BMI) of students. Results showed that about 19% of the 497 schools were “classified as FUTP60 programming schools.”
Annual improvements in aerobic capacity were “significantly greater in schools that participated in the programs for both girls (3%) and boys (2.9%) compared with non-program schools. The annual improvements in BMI Healthy Fitness Zone achievement were also higher in girls (1.3%) and in boys (1.2%) from schools that participated in the program vs. those that did not.”
The report stated that schools implementing the programs for the entire 4-year period tended to have better improvements in aerobic capacity than schools enrolled for only 2 or 3 years.
Still, the study authors concluded that, “The results … support the utility of the NFL Play 60 physical activity promotion programs for improving youth aerobic capacity and potentially helping to reverse the prevalence of overweight / obesity. However, the overall program adoption rate is low.”
Most of the FUTP60 program is web-based, with toolkits for lead educators at participating schools. In fact, IRS Form 990s for 2014-16 show that of the $7 to $10 million in funds received annually through checkoff and other organizations, roughly $3 to 4 million was used annually in the form of grants to qualifying schools and of the remaining $4 to $6 million, an average of just $109,000 (roughly 1%) from 2014 through 2016 was used for printing or publishing materials.
The detailed website is augmented by NFL ‘Play60’ apps that students can download and use on electronic devices to participate in ‘virtual challenges’ relating to movement and activity.
The less than $1 million contributed by the NFL and the larger number Commissioner Goodell articulates based on ‘services’ can be considered as furthering the advertising value for the NFL — attracting future generations to the game while attracting schools to participate in FUTP60. The FUTP60 infographic explains how the NFL “brings excitement to school wellness”… with these 2016-17 statistics: 2700 NFL players, mascots and cheerleaders visited schools, 4200 local events were held, 12,000 flag (football) kits were donated to schools to get over 6 million students moving more, and over $1 million in hometown grants were donated to schools.”
It is certainly true that there is plenty of NFL branding in this program under the auspices of “bringing NFL excitement to physical activity” — even though…
America’s dairy farmers — through their mandatory checkoff organizations — outspend the NFL $4 to $1, according to available 2014, 2015 and 2016 IRS 990s at guidestar.org.
Even the video spots created by DMI for this year’s social media lead-up to the 53rd Super Bowl were long on NFL branding and short on dairy messaging. Read more about that, here.
Again, the Youth Improved Incorporated Foundation, doing business as GENYOUth, is short on dairy and long on NFL.
FUTP60 is largely a program focusing on physical activity, and there are other areas of youth wellness that are being added each year.
This year’s new foray for GENYOUth is sleep studies. The new big thing in weight-loss is getting enough sleep.
As it grows, GENYOUth’s founding and primary funding is by dairy farmers who see their message diluted – just like the flavor of their milk at the school lunch counter or mobile breakfast cart.
The thinking is that fat-free and low-fat dairy can be quietly positioned for the future within this overall youth wellness effort. Insiders put stock in the mobile breakfast carts that schools can earn using FUTP60 healthy eating and physical activity ‘plays’ to score ‘touchdowns’.
DMI staff point to these breakfast carts as opportunities for children to consume more fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt and skim-processed cheese.
Should dairy farmers be investing in youth wellness? That feels like a good idea. But when there are so many questions about how ‘well’ kids are permitted to eat at school, one has to wonder where this is all going.
In terms of truly promoting dairy, this all has the feel of a hope-to-catch, hail-Mary-pass that is destined to be intercepted vs. a game plan that earns a win for the home-team that sits at 4th and 40 with 4 seconds on the clock — backed up to their own endzone.