The dairy checkoff has two critical missions on behalf of America’s dairy farm families: help grow sales and build consumer trust.
This means your checkoff investment provides you a critical voice in the marketplace and helps find a home here and around the world for U.S. dairy. This is largely done by working with and through the dairy, food and beverage communities to drive sales and bringing other people’s money and resources to advance dairy farmer goals.
In fact, for every $1 that farmers invest, partners invest at least $10.
Checkoff employees work on-site with food service partner teams to support menu innovation and provide nutrition and consumer insights to find new ways to use dairy. The success of domestic cheese is one example of how working with others helps dairy farmers. In the last 52-week period, domestic cheese sales drove 5.5 billion pounds of additional milk.
Most of this is the result of product development with major pizza chains (and checkoff partners) such as Domino’s and Pizza Hut, and quick-serve restaurant partners McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
The checkoff also leads efforts to help ensure public trust in U.S. dairy. Why? Because we know that now, more than ever, trust equals sales. Today’s consumers increasingly consider how their food is produced when making purchase decisions.
Here are some ways the checkoff’s strategies delivered results for farmers in 2016.
- Dairy enjoyed substantial growth at McDonald’s, the nation’s largest restaurant chain. Total milk pounds at McDonald’s were up 14 percent through the first three quarters of 2016, thanks to last year’s transition to butter and this year’s offering of an all-day breakfast menu which prominently features dairy.
And when McDonald’s leads, others will follow: The chain’s shift to butter and all-day breakfast was copied by non-checkoff partners across the industry.
- Domino’s marked 21 consecutive quarters of growth this year, meaning lots of cheese moved through the company for dairy farmers. Since 2008, when Domino’s and dairy farmers first partnered, the chain has increased its overall cheese use by 43
- Pizza Hut increased its focus on innovation to prominently feature cheese. One such creation is the grilled cheese stuffed crust pizza, which uses more than a pound of cheese – double the amount on a hand-tossed pizza. The checkoff’s partnership with Pizza Hut has helped drive 250 million pounds of milk volume from cheese-related limited-time offers such as this since 2014.
- More than 90 percent of Taco Bell’s menu items include dairy, thanks in part to checkoff employees. In 2016, Taco Bell worked with on-site checkoff staff to launch the cheesy core burrito, which features more than 1.5 ounces of dairy.
The chain also introduced the “quesalupa,” a cheese-stuffed taco shell with five times as much cheese as a regular taco shell. The quesalupa, a limited-time offer, used more than 60 million pounds of milk.
- Farmers remain committed to turning around a more than 40-year decline in fluid milk sales. The checkoff is partnering with seven fluid milk partners to revitalize the category. These partners have spent more than $500 million to innovate and upgrade or build plant facilities with enhanced capabilities to produce extended-shelf-life or shelf-stable products.
The checkoff’s partnership with fairlife used an additional 150 million pounds of milk in its first year and leveraged the distribution and marketing muscle of Coca-Cola. Other partners are on track to launch milk and milk-based products in 2017.
- Working to help maintain and build public trust in U.S. dairy, the checkoff continued efforts to work across the dairy community and tell dairy’s great story: The checkoff launched the second season of the online digital series Acres + Avenues that tells dairy’s story by bringing together farmers and urban millennials to create shared experiences, reinforcing the fact that people have more in common than they may realize.
The campaign garnered more than 6.7 million video views. Additionally, YouTube star Flula Borg, who appears in the video, reached an important audience of millennial consumers and helped drive views through his social media channels.
- The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, established by dairy farmers, created a partnership with The Atlantic to reach thought leaders and influencers who provide a critical path to reach dairy consumers.
This fall, U.S. dairy participated in a forum that brought together more than 1,500 leaders who listened to farmers talk about consumer choice and responsible marketing in formal and one-on-one conversations.
- The checkoff continues to grow consumer trust through its DairyGood platform that includes a website and accompanying social media channels. DairyGood content is shared across the industry through the checkoff’s Amplification Center, and DMI staff provides social media and other communications training to farmers and dairy companies that can help tell dairy’s story.
DMI’s newsroom also protects consumer trust with daily monitoring of issues and can help set the record straight when necessary.
- It’s important the industry be prepared for a worst-case scenario, which is why the checkoff leads ongoing industry-wide crisis preparedness drills. This year, DMI facilitated four different sessions using an undercover “animal abuse” video scenario.
These trainings provided an opportunity for more than 250 leaders from across the dairy supply chain to experience how a real-life crisis could unfold with workshops and interactive exercises brought to life.
Farmers can be assured that efforts to increase consumer trust will become even more heightened in 2017. The Innovation Center believes now is the time for the industry to become more united, open and bold in proactively building trust with consumers by demonstrating our commitment to transparently telling our story.
People want to know where their food comes from, and that’s good news for us – provided we tell that story in a proactive and unified way.
Although a 2017 launch date has not been set, the groundwork was created this year with farmers, dairy companies and cooperatives, dairy customers and thought leaders to ensure alignment and coordination.
Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy farmers and importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.