Taco Bell has commercials reminding people that it is “open late,” thus appealing to the occasional desire that people have for another meal between dinner and the time they go to bed. Godiva Chocolates are for special occasions. And Snickers candy bars are a way to satisfy hunger between meals.

These are examples of occasion-based marketing. One expert suggests applying the same approach to fluid milk.

At the Dairy Forum meeting in January 2011, Steven Goldbach, partner at the Monitor research firm, outlined a marketing strategy developed from extensive consumer research.

“It’s about getting current milk-drinkers to consume more and to get those who don’t drink milk to try it,” he said.

It’s also about reversing a long downward slide in per-capita milk consumption.

Occasion-based marketing may be able to reverse this trend by focusing on certain times of the day or certain activities where consumers might be inclined to choose milk over other beverages.

For example:

· Breakfast is the meal where people are most likely to consume milk. It is an occasion that needs to be emphasized. Consumers need to hear about the importance of breakfast. And, it is also an opportunity for the dairy industry to partner with other breakfast food providers, such as cereal companies.

· After exercise, people can drink milk to rehydrate and replenish body reserves. In fact, research studies have shown milk to be a superior beverage in this regard.

· At night, between supper and the time people go to bed, they often like to indulge in a dessert item. Milk goes well with cake or cookies. And, perhaps there are “warm, frothy” beverages that people drink at night that aren’t necessarily milk, but contain milk as a constituent ingredient.

Goldbach pointed out that fluid milk consumption, on a per-capita basis, has declined for at least 30 years. In the past decade, it fell from approximately 22.5 gallons per person in 2000 to 20.6 gallons in 2009.

Over that same period of time, the average person’s total beverage consumption stayed the same, he said. It was 224 gallons per person in 2000 and 223 gallons in 2009

“So, to increase the volume of milk consumption, you have to get consumers to put another beverage down — it’s not about getting them to drink more,” he said.

Occasion-based marketing may provide a chance for milk to out-compete other beverages during certain times of the day or certain activities.

The study was commissioned by the Milk Processor Education Program, or MilkPep.