Lack of innovation has hurt milk sales

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Everyone knows that fluid milk consumption has been declining for years.

A major reason: Lack of innovation among milk processors.

I want to thank Alan Bernon, senior advisor and president of the affiliate division at Dairy Farmers of America, for providing clarity on this at an industry meeting last month.

Bernon participated in a panel discussion on innovation and was brave enough to field the moderator’s $64,000 question: Why didn’t milk processors see the need to innovate sooner?

For years, processors didn’t think they had to because milk was a product with so many positive attributes, Bernon said. Then, as other beverages continued to take market share (or “share of stomach”) away from milk, the processors wondered what innovation would cost.

Now, they are looking back at four decades of declining milk sales and saying “we can’t afford not to invest,” he said.

Too bad that time was lost. But as the old saying goes, “Better late than never.”

Over the years, we as a magazine have attempted to keep this issue in the forefront — and pass on creative ideas.

Here in the Kansas City area, for example, the Shatto Milk Co. has developed a loyal following because of its creativity with fluid milk. Recent rollouts have included blueberry-flavored milk (in glass bottles), as well as mint chocolate and apple pie.

A few years ago, I attended the Alltech Symposium in Lexington, Ky., and company founder T. Pearse Lyons suggested branding milk for different age groups, which I thought was a good idea. Then, at the joint annual meeting of the National Dairy Board and National Milk Producers Federation last month, I heard similar ideas expressed. Barb O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, said that by the year 2020, one-third of the U.S. population will be over the age of 55. It piqued my curiosity, since I am already in that age category, so I asked her to be more specific on how milk might be marketed to older Americans. She said the protein in milk is an important attribute, since it helps older adults keep their muscle tone. Having containers that are smaller than the traditional gallon jugs might be a good idea, as well.

After listening to Bernon, O’Brien and a representative from the Shamrock Foods Co., I felt good knowing that innovation in fluid milk marketing is well under way.

From my vantage point — responsible for putting out an online newsletter every day — I process a multitude of stories from professional health journals, the vast majority of which support the nutritional value of milk. Over the course of a year, I see 40 or more of these stories and try to pass them on to my readers. It always amazes me that a beverage like bottled water, with little or no nutritional value other than its ability to keep a person hydrated, is so successful when fluid milk is experiencing a sales decline.

The only thing that is holding milk back is a lack of innovation. Fortunately, it appears that fluid milk processors have gotten the message and are doing something about it.

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Texas  |  December, 04, 2013 at 02:08 PM

Maybe we need a dairy check-off program.....

Central PA  |  December, 04, 2013 at 02:11 PM

I have noticed that milk jugs int eh grocery stores are usually covered with fingerprints from the stock clerk having to hurriedly unload the shipment no doubt. All the while the soft drinks are shiny and found with the life size cardboard cut-out of some celebrity or another. Its not just one store in the area, but most. Is it the same everywhere? I've even seen damaged cottage cheese containers leaking down onto the milk jugs. Not a real good way to market our product.

Ken McGuffey    
Indianapolis IN  |  December, 04, 2013 at 03:57 PM

This topic was discussed today at quarterly Indiana Dairy Producers meeting. The value of milk is in its components. I paid $2.00 a gallon for whole milk and $4.00 for a premium whole chocolate milk (chochy) for my 3 young grandkids (they drank three gallons of chochy a 1 gallon of whole) in 3 days during Thanksgiving. I also bought cheese for the whole family and paid equivalent of at least $4-5 for that same gallon of whole milk in these foods. Plus we had yogurt, cream cheese, whipping cream, all of which are value added products of milk from the cow. Mr. Bernon is right - innovation is the life blood of most agriculture commodities. More food products are derived from milk than any other animal product certainly and most grain commodities. The industry needs to exploit this opportunity through innovation. Look at the dinosaurs in the computer industry, photography film and cameras, typewriters and a whole host of products. Innovation OR failure to innovate led to the demise of these products. Finally, the US is the only country in the world that could create a 15-20% immediate growth in milk production and the world markets are there if we cater dairy products to their needs. Ken McGuffey, Past President (2012-2013) of American Dairy Science Association

arun phatak    
california  |  December, 04, 2013 at 05:15 PM

Indians from india consume lot of MILK PRODUCTS,lile paneer, buter, Ghee,Sandesh,Rasgulla,Burfee,Pedha,Rabdi ,all these products are from India,quality of peoducts is noi good.Why our prossesig plants manufacture these products?

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