Meeting changing consumer demands for nutritious snacking and convenience can boost dairy product consumption, according to panelists featured during the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) annual Dairy Food and Policy Summit, held Dec. 19-20, 2018 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Throndsen amy
Managing Partner and COO / Advanced Comfort Technology Inc. / DCC Waterbeds

More than 110 people, including dairy farmers, government officials and food system and allied dairy professionals attended the summit. The agenda provided updates on national and state programs and organizations impacting farmers and the food industry, including the USDA, the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, the National Pork Board, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the Wisconsin departments of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Natural Resources.

Marketing panel looks ahead

Senior leaders from fairlife, Kwik Trip Inc., Foremost Farms USA and The Origin Milk Company tackled the question of dairy trends in their panel, “Look ahead, get ahead.” All panel members stressed that each of their respective companies are focused on understanding customers’ needs.

“People have choices for beverages today like they’ve never had before,” said Scott Falkenberg, senior category manager at Kwik Trip, a convenience store chain with locations throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. At Kwik Trip, that translates into working with suppliers on delivering products that are easy to eat and drink in the car while customers are on the go.

Foremost Farms USA is one of Kwik Trip’s suppliers, and Laurie Horn, senior director of sales and marketing for cheese and butter, explained that she and her team are working on ways they can offer value-added products to customers.


Adrian Bota, founder of The Origin Milk Company, is focused on providing consumers A2 milk from Guernsey herds near Cleveland, Ohio, and launching new markets in 2019 in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York.

The senior brand manager for brand expansion at fairlife, Ankica Runac, explained how macro-trends in consumer behavior are impacting the dairy industry. Health and indulgence are two driving factors behind consumer behaviors, as well as “mash-ups” and snacking.

Mash-ups take what you already know and add an unfamiliar but complementary dairy product to it. Runac explained that due to the increased popularity of the “bullet-proof diet,” more people are drinking coffee and butter.

She asked participants to think about “How can we take products that consumers already know and introduce it with a dairy product?”

Snacking is a driver

Runac detailed how snacking is an opportunity for the dairy industry to meet consumer needs.

Snacking is a growing market with over $33 billion spent annually. Runac described three drivers for consumer snacking: finding sustained energy or to curb hunger, optimizing recovery after working out or for mental focus and indulgency or reward. One in four millennials are snacking at least four times per day.

“Snacking isn’t a trend anymore – it is how consumers eat. You have four occasions, at minimum, you can get someone to have dairy. That is a lot of growth,” Runac said.

Falkenberg also noted Kwik Trip is looking for snack products that are easily consumed on the go and in the vehicle.

Industry advice

“Based on all the choices today, and where you see the future going, what is one piece of advice you would give producers today to be best positioned with where the future is going?” panel moderator Linda Wenck, communications expert with MorganMyers, asked as the final question to the panel.

“Be innovative and be flexible,” said Bota. “Be ready to change to give the customer what they want. It’s not a fad; it’s a trend. It’s customer-driven and will last a long time.”

“Continue the rediscovery of dairy as something that is healthy. Nutrients, vitamins, minerals – everything already exists in dairy. Start using them and using them to your benefit,” Runac said.

Falkenberg shared a way Kwik Trip looks at the future: “We ask the question, ‘Why are we doing it this way?’ If someone comes back with the answer, ‘That’s how we’ve always done it; no one has questioned that before,’ then it’s one of those where there’s probably an opportunity there.”  end mark

PHOTO: Representatives of dairy processing and marketing companies shared insights on consumer trends during the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) annual Dairy Food and Policy Summit. Panelists included (left to right) Laurie Horn, Foremost Farms USA; Ankica Runac, fairlife; Adrian Bota, The Origin Milk Company; and Scott Falkenberg, Kwik Trip. Photo courtesy PDPW.

Amy Throndsen