Are we going to keep zigging? Or is it time to zag?

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.)


This graph illustrates what has happened to fluid milk consumption and the steep drop-off since 2010 while the dairy industry has increased the amount of zigging with the ziggers. It may be time to zag, especially when we see that consumers — where given a choice — are CHOOSING whole milk more frequently since 2014 even though the checkoff message is still fat-free / low-fat.

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Even in worst of times, milk stayed true

Let’s work to put some pressure on our elected representatives to stop this immoral travesty of sub-par nutrition to our children. — Renee Troutman

This letter, which ran on the cover of Farmshine, February 15, 2019, is republished here with permission.

By Renee Troutman, Myerstown, Pennsylvania

Recently in my children’s history lessons about World War I we were learning specifically about war efforts on the home front to ration and save food so there would be enough for our soldiers and European countries ravaged by war. Americans were asked to save on wheat, meat, fats, and sugar. They selflessly sacrificed things like beef, pork, and candy. They ate more vegetables and used fruit preserves to sweeten their desserts. Not a crumb of bread was wasted.

In each history lesson we also read some form of original history, whether it be a speech, newspaper article, songs, or letters. This time we read excerpts from a popular 1918 publication called Foods That Will Win the War and How to Cook Them that gave recipes and tips to help with the rationing efforts. There was a section about using milk and I thought it was very interesting. Here’s what it says:

“To Save Milk: Use it all. Buy whole milk and let the cream rise. Use this cream, and you secure your milk without cost. Economize on milk and cream except for children. The children must have milk whole. Serve buttermilk. Serve cottage cheese regularly in varying forms. It is especially nutritious. Use cheese generally.”

Is anyone else as intrigued as I am that even during times when rationing food was a necessity, the thought of giving remnants of milk to children wasn’t even a consideration? Conventional wisdom and common sense knew that children going through the most critical growth periods of their lives needed whole milk for proper development. In no way was anyone going to suggest that children be deprived of nutritious, dietary fat. Many vitamins in milk are fat soluble and calcium absorption is aided with the fat so giving children anything less made that nutrition null and void. Nobody was going to do that to children and nobody did.

But yet, 100 years later, while we’re supposedly drowning in surplus milk, here we are giving our children nutritional remnants of milk because the government tells us to. Whole milk has somehow been villainized even though milk has been heralded as a sacred nutritional staple for millennia. Our national security is now being compromised as we lose farms daily to financial ruin as milk drinkers are dismayed at the blah of skim milk. And, to add insult to injury, farmers are shooting themselves in their own foot as promotion money forcibly taxed off of their meager milk checks is used to push this erroneous and devastating no-fat/low-fat message.

Our children deserve so much better. We produce an abundance of wholesome, nutritious, and delicious milk in this country. I’d really like to know why we are mandated by the government to only give ourselves measly remnants. The tide needs to turn, and fortunately, I think it is.

Let’s work to put some pressure on our elected representatives to stop this immoral travesty of sub-par nutrition to our children. Call your U.S. Congressman to make HR 832 Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019 to happen and fast. Do whatever you can yourself to educate the public about the truth and goodness of whole milk and let’s make the consumers we provide for confident and excited about using our whole product again and not just the measly remnants of it. 

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Are dairy farmers funding their demise? USDA ‘straight-jackets’ promotion; GENYOUth alliances suspicious

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of an investigative report on GENYOUth, which began with USDA contacting National Dairy Council in Sept. 2009, National Dairy Council contacting National Football League in 2009/10 and an official signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NDC and NFL with USDA in February 2011. 

By Sherry Bunting, from Farmshine, Friday, January 18, 2019

They call it “the dairy farmers’ youth wellness program,” but GENYOUth is under the thumb of USDA with some questionable corporate alliances and trends underway.

This multi-part series looks at GENYOUth’s founding, its alliances, its mixed-messages, intended and unintended consequences, its partners and the new alternative products they are and will be introducing into the nutritional vacuum paved by low-fat and fat-free promotion, the winners and losers, and the impact on our dairy farms, and our children.

Let’s pick up where we left off from last week’s Part One.

Helping America’s youth lead better and healthier lives is a worthy pursuit, and there is no intention here to blame good-hearted people trying to do good within the straight-jacket of USDA control. What is being questioned is the direction. What is being exposed is the roots of the oak tree and its impact on our dairy farms and our children.

The problem with the GENYOUth model is that it is primarily funded by mandatory dairy check-off dollars and the government control of it.

The anti-animal and environmental NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) are driving decisions by Big Food, Big Ag, Big Government (and the World Health Organization). And there are new billionaire corporate “sustainability” alliances poised to profit on this main course, while dairy farmer GENYOUth “founders” hope for crumbs.

GENYOUth began in 2010 as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between National Dairy Council and National Football League with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services. This six-way MOU was officially signed on Feb. 4, 2011 during the Superbowl that year (below).

GENYOUth-MOU(2011).jpg

This 2011 USDA photo found on a USDA flickr stream shows lots of cameras, but few, if any, dairy farming publications were notified. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed Fri., Feb. 4, 2011 during Superbowl week in Dallas Texas. It had been under development since Sept. 2009. The MOU outlined the joint commitment of the NFL, USDA, National Dairy Council, GENYOUth Foundation, to end childhood obesity. Signing from left were NDC President Jean Regalie, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick.

According to Guidestar, the non-profit is listed under the name Youth Improved Incorporated (aka GENYOUth) with the tagline ‘exercise your influence.’ It refers to itself as an NGO. (NGO is defined as “a nonprofit organization that operates independently of any government, typically one whose purpose is to address a social or political issue.”)

GENYOUth was launched to increase physical activity among schoolchildren as well as to encourage healthy eating with emphasis on school breakfast and then mobile breakfast carts. The 2014 (most recent) progress report noted that 73,000 schools and 38 million children had been reached by Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60), affecting the health and wellness of an estimated 14 million students’.

The only reference to dairy in the FUTP60 message pounded home about fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy.

A year ago at a bank meeting in front of 500 farmers, then U.S. House Ag Committee vice chair G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania said he wanted his healthy school milk bill to bring the standard up to 2% or whole milk, but, he said “producers and processors came to me and told me to go slow, to keep it at 1% and take baby-steps.”

Who were the “producers” and “processors” coming to him with that request? National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the check-off MOU under the thumb of USDA.

Those same entities then turn around and tell grassroots farmers that they are forced to work within the confines of what USDA will allow. And so, the circular argument continues. Round and round we go.

Which brings us back to the Nov. 27, 2018 GENYOUth Gala in New York City and the Vanguard Award to PepsiCo.

PepsiCo has been a GENYOUth partner for seven years. In 2018, PepsiCo not only paid its “hero” sponsorship of $150,000 for the event, they gave an additional $1 million for the purchase of 45 additional mobile breakfast carts and the Espanol version of FUTP60.

According to the only piece of the 2011 MOU that can be found, the NFL, NDC, and GENYOUth have agreed not to use FUTP60 “as a vehicle to sell or promote products or services.” But it is clear that the NFL and other corporate partners, like Pepsi, have brand recognition.

How is dairy’s brand recognized? Hats are tipped at the Gala to “America’s dairy farmers” as the founders who launched the platform. But they are hog-tied by generic promotion and exclusion of the full nutritional value of their product — whole milk, real butter and real cheese — within the government straight-jacket.

GENYOUth was created while Tom Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture (below). According to cross-posted blog entries between DMI and USDA near the end of 2009: “The USDA discussed in September (2009) a plan to develop the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between USDA, the NFL and DMI to allow USDA programs and Fuel Up to Play 60 to collaborate and collectively tackle the critical issue of children’s health.”

VILSACK-FUTP60(2011).jpg

Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is currently CEO of the check-off funded U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), is photographed in 2011 with young people during Superbowl week in Dallas, Texas, after the signing of the 2011 GENYOUth MOU — 18 months after USDA first discussed the plan for the MOU with the National Dairy Council and a year after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Tom Gallagher of DMI approached him. 2011 USDA photo

When former President Bill Clinton was invited to speak about Vilsack at the 2017 Gala where Vilsack was presented with the 2017 Vanguard Award, Clinton, a vegan, talked about every entity in the “diverse partnership” that he was celebrating — except for America’s dairy farmers.

He talked about how children receive 40 to 60% of their calories from drinks in school. He talked about turning the obesity epidemic around by everyone taking responsibility in that area. He talked about how Vilsack’s leadership with Michelle Obama, made beverages and snacks abide by the fat-free rules, including school vending machines. He talked about how Vilsack was instrumental “under the radar… working for a healthier generation of kids before coming to USDA and before the launch of GENYOUth.”

Meanwhile, the more the government’s direction squeezes healthy fat from the diet, the more the obesity figures in children continue to grow.

This year, at the 2018 Gala, GENYOUth CEO Alexis Glick thanked each partner. “We give a heartfelt thank you to our founding partners America’s dairy farmers and the National Football League and the players association,” said Glick in a YouTube video of the November Gala. She had previously thanked longtime partners Land O’Lakes and Domino’s while also acknowledging Mike and Sue McCloskey (fairlife) as well as Leprino and Schreiber.

“I say to our farmers: You had a dream. And we have been blessed to be part of that dream. You gave us life. You believed in us. And can you believe we are standing here today on the cusp of the 10-year anniversary of FUTP60?” she said.

“And we extend an extra special thank you to PepsiCo,” Glick continued. “The generosity of your vision, your resources, your team, time and talent have changed our organization.”

In accepting the Vanguard Award on behalf of PepsiCo, CEO Albert Carey said: “We’ve had a wonderful partnership with the NFL over the years… doing things together like the Pepsi half-time show and Gatorade sidelines. We have had ads and retail programs for both of our brands,” he said.

“But the one NFL program our team noticed probably 10 years ago, or maybe 9 years ago, is one we have admired and wanted to be part of and that was Play 60,” said Carey, careful not to include the Fuel Up (dairy) part of the Play 60 tagline.

Carey said “you guys are doing a fantastic job inspiring kids… using football role models.”

He went on to say that PepsiCo wanted to be part of the program because of the importance of kids being active.

“But we also believe at PepsiCo that we need to provide healthy products for our consumers,” said Carey. “Some of you may be familiar with our mission ‘performance with purpose.’”

He described this as “getting great business performance while also serving others… on the part of the environment… or many other ways, but this one particular way is about providing healthier foods for our consumers.”

Carey said he thought PepsiCo had done a pretty good job at this over the past several years, “but we haven’t talked about it much. You see some obvious things like Pepsi zero sugar, Gatorade Zero,” he said. “But you don’t hear much about Bubbly Sparkling Water, Life Water, Quaker oat milk, and we just bought a company called Bare Snacks and our Kevita Kombucha products (probiotic drinks).”

He mentioned that the Quaker oat beverage, which he personally called “oat milk” but in reality this product is labeled “oat beverage for cereal, smoothies, coffee and more”. It is being launched this month and will be in stores by March.

The PepsiCo website mentions these products as part of the company’s commitment to further the World Health Organization goals of alternative products to reduce saturated fat consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby improving global environmental and nutritional sustainability.

Carey said the “oat milk” and bare snacks and probiotic drinks are part of PepsiCo goal of “converting its portfolio to healthier foods for the future.”

In fact, PepsiCo is also in development of so-called non-dairy ‘cheese’ and ‘yogurt’ snacks through its “Nutrition Greenhouse Accelerator program, including the purchase of Health Warrior, which PepsiCo said in an October 2018 Food and Beverage article “is a nutrition-forward trailblazer that can provide great insight into high value categories and consumers while benefiting from our expertise and resources to bring plant-based nutrition to more people.”

Meanwhile, the GENYOUth program bestowed the 2018 GENYOUth Vanguard Award on PepsiCo for its seven years of partnership and its commitment to give an additional $1 million, which PepsiCo’s Carey said would fund Play 60 in Espanol as well as 45 new mobile school breakfast carts, bringing PepsiCo’s cart total to 100.

It will be interesting to see what may appear on these carts in the future, given the new oat beverage, plant-based probiotic drinks, and other “Nutrition Greenhouse” products emerging in the PepsiCo portfolio.

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