As a dairy producer for more than 20 years, I know that I cannot run my operation the way I did 20 or even five years ago. The same is true for how we market our dairy products and ingredients. Dairy marketing is changing at such a fast pace that it is no longer “business as usual” for today’s dairy producer-funded-checkoff program.

I, along with other dairy producers from around the country, work hard to determine the future direction of our checkoff investments in research and promotion. We have identified three key priorities:

  • Improve children’s milk-drinking experiences at school and foodservice to help form lifelong dairy consumers.
  • Increase dairy product sales through improved availability and product innovation to give consumers what they want.
  • Ensure that checkoff-funded nutrition, product, technology and other market innovations reach dairy and food-industry marketers who can affect change and drive dairy sales.

Develop lifelong consumers
Several years ago, our promotion programs began shifting from a traditional emphasis on advertising to a business-to-business focus to develop partnerships. By working with strategic partners, we gain greater impact on actual sales of dairy products and ingredients. We have to focus on more than just increasing demand; dairy producers want increased sales volume, too.

We are developing long-term strategies to address key business obstacles, such as lack of product availability and lack of a “value-added” mind-set for dairy products and ingredients that keep us from increasing sales for fluid milk, cheese, yogurt and dairy ingredients.

For example, the dairy checkoff’s New Look of School Milk program is increasing milk consumption among kids. Today, more than 3,500 schools (representing more than 2.5 million students) offer single-serve milk in plastic re-sealable bottles on the school meal line. That’s compared to 400 schools that offered milk in bottles in the 2003-2004 school year.

As a result, processors and school districts implementing the New Look of School Milk program report milk sales increases of up to 35 percent and volume gains of up to 75 percent in certain markets. If milk in plastic, re-sealable bottles were available to students nationwide, we could see up to an 800-million-pound increase in annual incremental sales.

Research leads to opportunities
Checkoff-funded dairy ingredient research and marketing efforts help grow demand and sales by identifying new ways to use dairy ingredients in foods and beverages.

Dairy checkoff-funded product research is leading to significant dairy product innovations. One example is the development of whey protein polymers that act as thickening agents, thus opening new food ingredient opportunities for whey.

Checkoff-funded efforts also have helped sponsor clinical research that uncovers the health benefits of dairy. For instance, dairy consumption may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension and heart disease and certain types of cancer. Most recently, research uncovered how dairy product consumption can be part of the solution to adult weight loss and weight management.

Know your competitors
The U.S. dairy industry’s main competition is not other dairy-producing nations, but competing beverages and ingredients. By keeping dairy ingredients competitive, we can provide long-term value to dairy producers. In whey, we are doing this through a research consortium and other research partnerships to speed the development of health-related claims.

And, through the checkoff-funded efforts of the U.S. Dairy Export Council®, the U.S. is meeting international demand for standardized skim milk powder, showing dairy suppliers how they can meet the needs of foreign buyers.

Forming lifelong dairy consumers, increasing dairy product availability, adding value to dairy ingredients and using powerful partnerships will all provide long-term value to America’s dairy producers.

For more information about dairy checkoff-funded promotion, research and education efforts, visit

Paul Rovey is an Arizona dairy producer who serves as chairman for Dairy Management Inc.™, which manages the national dairy checkoff program.