PHOENIX, Ariz. – In January, McDonald’s restaurant chain will introduce a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe.

It is a milk-blended ice beverage that has a mocha-flavored dairy base (with chocolate chips blended in), topped by whipped cream and strawberry drizzle. It will be served to consumers in 12-, 16- or 20-ounce sizes.

It is the latest dairy-based innovation from McDonald’s, but certainly not the last.

“There’s nothing better than serving your child a glass of milk, and it really helps them grow stronger,” says Darci Forrest, senior director of the U.S. Menu Innovation Team at McDonald’s.

Dairy is a wholesome ingredient that also makes a food item taste great, she says. “That’s why we use it as an ingredient across our menu, and it’s really a trend that will continue across all of our menu items.”

What started out as a move by McDonald’s 10 years ago to include single-serve milk containers as a choice with Happy Meals has grown into a full-blown array of dairy items.

Forrest credits a partnership between McDonald’s and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national checkoff program, for helping to make this happen.

“What really helps fuel our growth is when we can get into innovation,” she says. Yet, every company has a limit to the number of resources it has, she adds.

What McDonald’s has gotten from its partnership with DMI is expertise, including three dairy scientists who work in-house at the McDonald’s site with the McDonald’s innovation team. “They give us expertise that we wouldn’t have on our own,” Forrest says.

Twenty-seven dairy-friendly products have been developed at McDonald’s in the past year. Not all of those are in McDonald’s restaurants yet; some are still in the testing phase to be rolled out at a future date.

Some of those products were discussed this week at the joint annual meeting of the National Milk Products Council and DMI this week in Phoenix, Ariz.