Dairy farmers have a long-standing commitment to our nation’s health and wellness, starting with the creation of the National Dairy Council in 1915. In the nearly 100 years since, America’s dairy farmers have told their great story through national and local dairy checkoff organizations. As a result, dairy’s contribution to a healthy diet is widely known and supported by consumers, health professionals, nutrition scientists and others, thereby helping protect and grow consumer confidence and, ultimately, sales. But, just as the dairy checkoff has evolved to meet our changing world, so has the consumers’ mindset and their understanding of how food is produced.
Today’s consumers are further and further removed from agriculture, and, for the most part, lack basic knowledge and information about how their food gets to them. As a result, consumers:
• Want to know more about the products they buy and how they are produced
• Feel responsible for doing things that will help protect the environment
• Demonstrate more loyalty – and make purchase decisions – to those companies or industries whose real or perceived values mirror their own
Major companies and industries – including dairy – realize more and more that its reputation is tied to its economic value. In other words, the image of dairy products, dairy farmers and the dairy industry impact the bottom line.
Most consumers already have a positive perception about dairy products and the people who produce them, but we all have a role in reintroducing and reinforcing consumers’ love affair with dairy to help protect and grow sales over the long term.
Healthy people, healthy communities, healthy planet
Checkoff-funded nutrition, product and other research builds a “hierarchy of trust” over time, one that means we are credible to consumers. This foundation includes reminding dairy consumers:
• Health and wellness benefits as part of a healthy diet
• Affordability relative to its nutrient package
• Economic benefits to local communities
• Environmental stewardship from the farm to the fridge
That’s why the dairy checkoff is leading an industry-wide effort through the producer-created Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (whose farmer, producer and industry membership represents 80 percent of total U.S. milk volume) to provide resources and tools to leverage consumer trust and values related to dairy.
Using June Dairy Month as a starting point, we’re helping position dairy’s important role in a safe, affordable and abundant food supply by focusing on:
• Healthy people – Dairy products play a healthy, nutritious and great-tasting role in people’s diets throughout their lifetime
• Healthy communities – Dairy farmers and the industry help communities lead healthier lives by producing dairy products and providing economic value
• Healthy planet – Dairy farm families, along with others in the industry, are committed to environmental stewardship and reducing our environmental impact
We’ll advance these messages with thought leaders, consumers and others by co-hosting a Washington, D.C.-based event with The Washington Post and Slate.com (a leading digital publication) in June titled, “ The Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century .”
The event is co-sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) and will give the dairy industry an opportunity to help lead a national discussion around the future of food and highlight dairy’s commitment to a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
We have engaged dozens of dairy organizations – including cooperatives, processors and agribusiness – along with health professionals – and will bring them together with those who help set the food, health and wellness agenda.
This will help establish momentum that can lead to solutions that are good for America’s dairy farm families, the environment, along with our nation’s – and the world’s – citizens.
While June is the start of our activities, rest assured that our commitment to dairy image is embedded within all of our checkoff activities over the long haul.
This includes national and local dairy council staff activities that reach nutrition and health professionals, the in-school Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and partnerships with industry leaders, including Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s, by tapping their existing social and traditional media tools that reach consumers.
You also have an important role. As one of the nation’s 51,000 dairy farmers, you have a great story to share – and a story consumers want to hear.
It’s a story about your commitment to providing safe, wholesome and nutritious dairy products that feed our country and beyond.
It’s a story about your dedication to environmental stewardship and caring for your animals. It’s a story about your leadership within your community whether it’s serving on a school board, providing much-needed jobs on your farm or your economic support of businesses that provide you goods and services.
It’s a story about dairy’s contributions to healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet. It’s time to tell this story. PD
The dairy checkoff can help you tell your story. Local dairy checkoff organizations have communications tips, training opportunities and other resources that can help you communicate with the public. Click here to read the “Checkoff Watch” feature to find out how you can contact your location organization and for more information about image-related activities.
Mollie Waller is executive vice president of dairy image, and industry image and relations for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which is the domestic and international planning and management organization that works to increase sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients on behalf of America’s dairy producers and dairy importers.