A few years ago, no one had heard of an ice cream called “Halo Top.” In August of 2017, the high-protein, low-fat, low-sugar brand was leading all other ice creams in grocery store pint sales. And your dairy checkoff helped make that happen.

Dairy farmers’ investment in the national and local checkoff supports the National Dairy Foods Research Center program, a unique system that helps individuals, organizations and companies do more with dairy products.

The system includes regionally based research centers affiliated with a network of universities: Cal Poly State, Utah State, University of Minnesota, South Dakota State, Iowa State, Cornell University, North Carolina State and the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

In the case of Halo Top, its inventor, Justin Woolverton, approached since-retired Cal Poly Center director Phil Tong in 2014 to commercialize what was then just a frozen dairy dessert he had been making at home. Woolverton knew if he were to sell it successfully, he’d have to scale up his operations. Tong and his staff helped him develop a low-calorie, high-protein formula and a method to produce it.

The team made at least 10 different batches, drawing each time on their years of research and experience.


Tong also recommended processors – a hurdle for many ice cream start-ups – and soon Halo Top was producing the dairy-rich ice cream that’s flying off grocers’ freezer shelves today.

Not long after Halo Top became a success, Unilever launched a similar dairy-based product called “Breyers delights,” which is the kind of catalytic effect the checkoff aims for.

Dairy Center researchers credit checkoff resources for providing the staff expertise that helped bring Halo Top to market successfully.

“It makes it possible for us to be receptive to calls from entrepreneurs like Woolverton,” Tong said. “If we didn’t have these staff on board, we couldn’t respond to them the way we did at that time.”

More than ice cream

These 100-plus research center staffers have globally recognized expertise in making new and improved dairy foods possible. That grows the dairy category and helps ensure a strong future for America’s dairy farm families.

Each research center has its own strengths and proficiencies. Some feature expertise in food safety, while another may be the go-to source for cheese production, and yet another might focus on ingredients. But all of them have the facilities and technical experts needed to help the industry introduce or improve products.

The centers also have been a valuable resource to numerous large and influential companies across the food industry, including some that are partners with the checkoff in growing dairy sales. These companies also provide financial support to the centers and some work with them on individual projects.

For example, McDonald’s has made use of the Southeast Dairy Center’s sensory capabilities in evaluating its menu offerings. Another company may approach a center about crystals forming during the cheese-making process. Our scientists can explain what causes it and how to prevent it.

Likewise, checkoff dollars helped fund the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research’s development of yogurt formulations, including Yodelay, a Swiss-style yogurt developed in Wisconsin with the vision of confectioner Markus Candinas.

Work done through the research centers has helped double the consumption of natural cheeses over the last 20 years. The centers have developed technology to create unique, value-added and award-winning cheeses that have distinct flavors, textures, lower sodium and attributes desired by consumers. Their innovation efforts have supported the rebirth of fluid milk and the growth of dairy beverages and Greek yogurt.

Dairy leadership for the future

While these centers are producing solutions to help the industry today, they are also producing the dairy industry’s workforce of tomorrow. These centers are staffed by gifted students who are intent on furthering their careers in the dairy industry.

The work of the dairy research centers is key to building and maintaining consumer trust in dairy and helps the checkoff and the entire dairy community have meaningful conversations with consumers and thought leaders through our Undeniably Dairy initiative.

You can find a local promotion organization to learn more about all the ways the dairy checkoff is bringing value online (Dairy Management Inc). end mark

PHOTO: Dairy Center researchers credit checkoff resources for providing the staff expertise that helped bring Halo Top to market successfully. Photo courtesy of Halo Top’s Facebook page.

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 dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.