I have been honored to serve on the national dairy promotion & Research Board for the past six years, and as chairman for the past two years. And I am truly amazed at all that has been accomplished with our dairy-checkoff investment since 2000.

Nowhere is this more evident than in our efforts to make milk available — when, where and how children want it. As a former high school science teacher, I like to work with hard facts. And, here are a few hard facts on how our checkoff program has helped grow our business:

  • 35,000. That’s the number of restaurants nationwide that now offer white and flavored milk in plastic bottles, including McDonald’s®, Wendy’s®, Burger King®, Sonic® Drive-In, and other regional chains.
  • 6,000. Today, more than 6,000 schools, representing 3.5 million students, now offer milk in plastic bottles on the school meal line.
  • Zero. That’s the number of schools and foodservice chains that offered milk in plastic bottles in 2000.
  • 300 million pounds. This represents the current increase in incremental fluid milk sales at schools and foodservice.
  • 1 billion bottles. That’s the number of 8-ounce plastic bottles that will be sold at schools and foodservice over the next year.

This is just one of many examples that demonstrate how our promotion investment is helping build sales both short- and long-term.

Building partnerships

How did we do this? Well, it wasn’t through generic promotion and advertising. While our past efforts helped build the positive image the public has about milk and dairy products, these results happened because our checkoff program has changed the way it does business.

We’re focusing on meeting what we call “unmet demand” — the difference between what we sell today and what we could sell if we make some changes. Our checkoff is working to give consumers the products they want — when and where they want them — through partnerships and product and packaging innovation.

We partner with dairy- and food-industry leaders to help spur innovation that helps find a home for the increasing amount of milk we produce. These partnerships offer a lot more than new products. Partners bring financial resources, marketing support, expertise, and credibility that leverage our producer investments.

Growth opportunities

U.S. dairy exports currently represent more than 8 percent of annual milk solids production, which is more than double the export volume from just 10 years ago. In fact, nearly one-third of all new milk production (on a total-solids basis) over the past few years has been sold internationally.

Experts predict that globally traded dairy demand will increase by more than 10 billion pounds by 2010. Our producer-funded efforts to develop and expand international markets, led by the U.S. Dairy Export Council® (which receives 60 percent of its funding through the checkoff), will help U.S. suppliers meet this increasing demand.

Dairy as an ingredient represents another area of significant growth potential. We know that many times dairy is a superior ingredient in terms of nutrition and functionality. Through our checkoff-funded efforts, more and more food manufacturers now know this, too.

Millions of pounds of dairy ingredients are starting to replace millions of pounds of other ingredients in protein drinks and bars, baked goods, salad dressings, and hundreds of other products. If we can take full advantage of these opportunities, we can find a home for millions of pounds of additional milk production.

Leading change

Meeting unmet demand … partnerships … innovation … exports … ingredients … driving sales. These are ideas that didn’t drive our promotion and research efforts six years ago, but they are helping us drive sales today.

Change is made when leaders and innovators come together to create it. Our dairy-checkoff program is focused on leading change in the industry that will help us grow our business. We’re focused in a new direction. And, while I’m no longer serving as a national dairy promotion producer leader, I totally support the direction we’re headed. You should, too.

Charles “Woody” Bryant milks 90 cows in Austin, Ark., and is the outgoing chairman of the National Dairy Promotion & Research Board.