At the 2014 World Ag Expo, held in Tulare, California, Progressive Dairyman and other program sponsors hosted speakers from the Dairy Council of California and the California Milk Advisory Board at the noon seminar session Feb. 12.

Freelance Writer
Paige Nelson is a freelance writer based in Idaho.
The dairy consumer
Mary Anne Burkman, senior director of program services for the Dairy Council of California, opened the seminar with “What does the dairy consumer want?”

Burkman covered four key areas to help address what today’s dairy consumer wants.

One area of focus was consumer attitudes and behaviors. The International Food Information Council survey found over the last five years, 17 percent of consumers have increased their dairy consumption, while 22 percent have decreased consumption.

When it comes to food purchasing decisions, Burkman said, “Taste and price remain the primary determinants.” However, healthfulness has risen to third place on the list, and sustainability is on its way up, as well.


The Millennial generation has contributed immensely to sustainability’s rise in consumer awareness.

Millennials are adults ranging in age from 20s to early 30s. Social conscience drives many of their food decisions. Millennials are interested in labels including locally grown, free-range, cruelty-free and hormone-free. They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort in consumer history.

Burkman also spoke about different dairy consumer categories.

Washington State found there are three main groups of dairy consumers: habitual consumers, 38 percent; cognitive heavies, 19 percent; and cognitive lights, 22 percent.

The habitual consumer uses two quarts of milk and dairy products per week. This cohort has more males and is older.

This group remains the most positive about dairy and the least likely to reduce consumption.

“When you talk about preaching to the choir, this is our choir,” said Burkman.

The problem is that this segment is shrinking.

The cognitive heavy consumer is very deliberate about their food choices. They consume 2.25 quarts of milk and dairy per week. This group is the most concerned about issues in the industry, including hormones, antibiotics and cruelty.

“The good news for us is that we have a very good news story to share with them. We have a good news story in terms of our animal care and environmental practices. We have a terrific story in terms of nutritional attributes of milk and dairy,” said Burkman.

Cognitive light consumers think slightly less about their food issues than cognitive heavies. They consume 0.5 quarts of milk and dairy per week. The cohort tends to be largely female and older.

Positivity about dairy ranks lowest among them. They prefer the taste of dairy alternatives. “This is a group that we are probably not going to turn,” said Burkman.

According to Burkman, white milk consumption has been declining for the past five years. U.S. birthrate, alternative beverages, drinkable yogurt and water consumption are cited as reasons.

In order to prevent similar trends in other dairy products, new products have entered the market. Products like exotic flavors of cheese, vegetable-flavored yogurt and Asian-inspired yogurt are attractive to Millennials on the hunt for diversity.

Baby boomers are interested in health attributes like omega three fatty acid supplemented cheeses.

“Good research has suggested that higher intakes of protein convey benefits to a whole range of people,” said Burkman.

Thus, on the market today are milk and yogurt that have been fortified with extra protein.

Promoting milk and dairy
Following Burkman, Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications for the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), addressed “How are we reaching the consumer?”

“The primary dairy buyer continues to be women 25-54 years old,” said Giambroni.

Television remains at the top for advertising, but today, the CMAB’s goal is to engage with the consumer. They do this by creating content that people are going to return to.

“We are building a long-term relationship with them,” said Giambroni.
CMBA uses social gaming, entertainment and social sites to spread the word about California milk and dairy.

Last June, Real California Milk entered FarmVille 2. Once players completed a specific task, they earned a California dairy cow and barn. That barn and cow then “live” in the game forever; there are currently 534,000 cows and milk barns living in the game.

CMAB also created a “Real California Milk Rockin’ in the Kitchen” playlist on Pandora Internet Radio.

Results from the two promotions came back positive. Real California Milk added 30,000 new fans on Facebook. Ads on YouTube received 12,000 clicks, and 37,000 people added the “Rockin’ in the Kitchen” playlist to their Pandora choices.

“Now it’s about amplifying that interaction,” said Giambroni. PD