ORLANDO, Fla. -- What started as an attempt to sell more cheese on pizzas has taken on bold new dimensions.

It's a partnership that has been "truly extraordinary," Patrick Doyle, president and CEO of Domino’s Pizza told those attending the National Milk Producers Federation/Dairy Management Inc. annual meeting in Orlando on Wednesday.

Doyle described a series of activities the pizza chain has undertaken as the result of its partnership with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program.

Those activities include:

  • A commitment to cheese. As Doyle explained it, the company went through a transformation, starting in 2008, which focused on better-tasting products. And, making the product taste better meant adding more cheese. In fact, Domino’s has added enough extra cheese over the past three years that 6.6 billion pounds of milk equivalent have been sold above what would have been sold had Domino’s stayed on the same course it was on prior to the transformation.
  • The recently introduced handmade pan pizza with two layers of cheese. It adds up to about 40 percent more cheese than a medium, two-topping hand-tossed pizza. “It’s an absolutely fabulous product,” Doyle said.
  • As part of the pan pizza rollout, Dominos invited dairy farmers to hand out slices in 13 Midwest stores on Oct. 23. It was a win-win: The dairy farmers got to talk about their products; consumers were able to learn more about where their food comes from, and the farmers, by their very presence, were able to provide a “quality halo” to the products. “We were really happy with results… so this is something you are going to see us expand,” Doyle said. (To learn more about the Oct. 23 promotion, see the video above.)
  • “Smart Slice” pizza offerings in schools. Currently, “Smart Slice” is in more than 400 school districts in 37 states. DMI helped Domino’s find the type of cheese that would meet USDA guidelines for school lunches.
  • Stepped-up exports of U.S. cheese to Domino’s restaurants in the Pacific Rim countries of Japan and Korea, as well as locations in the Middle East and even dairy-exporting nation Australia. “We want to get your dairy into these markets when we can,” Doyle said.
  • A “retail transformation,” starting with a number of stores in the Seattle, Wash., area. Carryout customers can walk in and see their pizzas being prepared behind a glass window. It’s meant to provide a friendlier atmosphere, and Domino’s is proud to show off the ingredients it is using on the pizzas. As an added bonus to dairy farmers, Domino’s has installed a cold case in the stores where customers can buy single-serve white and chocolate milk.
  • Social media. “We’re working hard to tell your story,” Doyle said. For instance, Domino’s Facebook page has banner ads linking to the www.dairygood.org site.