Results from a study of the food service industry shows that when visual and vocal cues were used to promote milk that milk sales increased, on average, by 42 percent.

The study, conducted by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), illuminates a significant opportunity for increasing milk sales in restaurants. A 42 percent increase translates into an additional $300 million to $500 million in annual milk sales across the four nationwide food service channels studied.

The research was conducted during the summer and fall of 2002 in 37 restaurants. Those restaurants included quick-serve restaurants such as Krystal Hamburgers and Krispy Kreme Donuts; mid-scale restaurants such as Denny’s, Old Country Buffett; upscale casual restaurants such as steak houses and in cafeterias and delis located in office buildings, plants and college campuses across the country. The study lasted four to 10 weeks in each location.

In the study, the researchers analyzed the effectiveness of a variety of visual and vocal cues used by each restaurant and its staff to encourage customers to order milk. Tactics included promotional materials, got milk apparel on key employees, and verbal cues from servers and cashiers asking if they would like to order milk. What they discovered is that milk is so under promoted in restaurants that any promotion is effective at increasing sales of milk.

"The results strongly suggest that milk is a beverage that restaurant-goers will order if they are reminded that it is an option," says Tom Nagle, vice president of marketing for the International Dairy Foods Association. This is good news since out-of-home eating dollars have surpassed money spent on in-home food purchases — and this trend continues to grow.

Here’s how the results break down:

  • When promotions were geared toward children there was a 52 percent increase in milk sales.
  • When the promotions were geared toward adults, milk sales rose 35 percent.
  • At one location, 94 percent of parents who were surveyed reported that their children had ordered milk that day, and that previously 44 percent of their kids had never ordered milk in restaurants.
  • Kids responded best to repetition in point-of-purchase materials and promotional items that can be taken home, such as stickers or temporary tattoos.
  • Adding milk to "combo meals" was an effective sales tool, especially with kids and business and industry diners to increase milk sales.
  • Changing the combo items teamed with milk at least every four weeks maximized sales.

"The study results confirm that restaurant customers are open to ordering milk more often, but need a reminder of milk's availability," Nagle says.


IDFA press release