A fundamental change in dairy-promotion emphasis means that you will be seeing fewer “got milk?” ads on television, but hearing more about dairy from Wendy’s, McDonald’s ― and even Coca Cola. 

Dairy Management Inc., which manages the dairy checkoff program, plans to spend less money on television ads, while devoting more its resources to building strategic partnerships within the food chain.

Consumers already have a good image of milk, says Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of DMI. The problem with selling milk is “the availability of the product the way consumers want it,” he adds.

So, DMI plans to spend “far fewer dollars” on television advertising designed to boost the image of milk.

Generic promotion programs that focus their efforts on television advertising, while per-capita consumption of milk continues to decline and other product opportunities go unmet, is not helping dairy producers grow their businesses, Gallagher told those attending the National Milk Producers Federation/DMI joint annual meeting in San Francisco this week.

New data from the meeting show that per-capita sales of milk declined for the 15th consecutive year in 2004. It is now down to 21.1 gallons per capita, compared to 25.4 gallons when the 15-year losing streak began in 1990.

Gallagher cited several examples of DMI’s new emphasis on strategic partnerships, including:

  • The addition of 7-ounce strawberry yogurt at Wendy’s. Gallagher says this item alone will move 7 million pounds of milk per year. DMI helped Wendy’s with consumer research and public relations.
  • Ongoing efforts at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food chains to include milk on their menus in plastic, re-sealable containers. McDonald’s now sells more than 4 million of these containers each week; Wendy’s, more than 1 million. DMI spent a combined total of $6 million helping Wendy’s and McDonald’s get started. “Next year, Burger King and Sonic Drive-Ins are set to roll out milk in plastic bottles,” Gallagher says.
  • DMI has met with the top leadership of Coca-Cola regarding Coke’s marketing and distribution of Bravo! Milk Slammers. Coke’s marketing know-how and distribution channels could be a big asset in distributing extra milk. In fact, by the end of two years, Coke will be moving 500 million to 1 billion pounds of milk ― what Gallagher calls “incremental milk” because it is above and beyond current consumption.
  • Working with milk processors and plastic suppliers so that it becomes more economical for the processors to ship milk to schools, convenience stores and other outlets in plastic re-sealable containers rather than paperboard cartons.

These are examples of recognizing and fulfilling “unmet demand” for milk, which, in turn, will help producers grow their businesses, Gallagher adds.