Two or three times a year, I go to industry meetings that focus on the exciting things the dairy industry is doing to market products to consumers.

Then, in the intervening months, I read about declining milk consumption and how the “milk industry went sour,” as referenced in a recent Forbes article.

Following these negative reports, it was refreshing to attend the International Dairy Foods Association annual meeting in late January and hear about the really cool things that people are doing with milk, yogurt and cheese.

For example:

• Grocery stores are responding to changing consumer demographics and eating patterns. At the IDFA meeting, Christy Dobbs, a marketing director for Safeway, said one way to deliver value to consumers is to save them time in the meal preparation process. Dobbs showed a slide of the Philadelphia brand savory garlic cooking cream cheese. With a spoonful or two of this product, people can give their favorite dishes a flavorful touch — without much extra effort. On-the-go consumers like smaller portion sizes, such as those found in cheese snack packs. It’s also important to elevate consumers’ food experiences, Dobbs said. She illustrated this with a slide of Kern’s brand Horchata, a milk and rice drink with a hint of cinnamon — a “taste of Mexico” since it is popular in that country.

• Foreign countries can teach us a thing or two when it comes to creative marketing of dairy products. Libby Costin, global portfolio marketing director for Tetra Pak Packing Solutions, showed how a company in Argentina grew sales by marketing milk products to specific age groups. The SanCor Bebe brand is segmented Bebe 1, Bebe 2 and Bebe 3 for the nutritional needs of 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. In Japan, Meiji Dairies sells milk specially formulated for the needs of the elderly population. (Their marketing efforts include home delivery.) European countries have found creative ways to sell yogurt. One brand, Yolado in Spain, is sold chilled; people can take it home, put it in their freezers, and later eat it like ice cream. Also in Spain, a healthy and refreshing blend of milk and fruit juice in Bifrutas gives people an alternative to soft drinks.

Wow! I could go on and on.

Bottom-line: Opportunities abound; it’s just a matter of finding them.

Editor’s note: This commentary first appeared online at the end of January. A reader from New York state commented: “It truly is exciting to see all the great uses of dairy. I will be even more excited when farmers are paid what their production is worth and I bet their bankers would be too!!!!