There are more than 25,000 McDonald’s, Domino’s and Taco Bell restaurants combined in the U.S. They are the No. 1 burger, pizza and Mexican quick-serve restaurant chains and represent one out of every two transactions in this space. McDonald’s alone sees about 25 million people a day come through their doors.

This type of volume is what we mean when we talk about the importance of your checkoff’s strategy to deliver more through the power of partnerships.

The dairy checkoff shifted from an advertising-based strategy years ago to a model of working with and through powerful entities. Our restaurant partners continue to deliver results and dairy-centric innovations that are tangible to dairy farmers every time they scan a menu or order from a drive-thru at one of these global leaders.

The strategy has worked so well domestically that it expanded internationally where we partner with a major quick-serve restaurant pizza chain.

When the checkoff identifies potential partners, we do not just look at the possibilities of moving dairy volume. We want to make sure we have strategic alignment and we are working with companies that have shared values with farmers.


Our partners more than exhibit these traits and they are on full display this fall with domestic and international programs. These efforts are designed to make more than a dent for farmers who are facing economic challenges with ever-rising input costs that are impacting their bottom line. 

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Midwest Dairy, American Dairy Association Mideast and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan are supporting promotions with these companies that are expected to move about 12 million additional pounds of cheese. And that is 100% U.S.-produced cheese.

It is worth noting that while these checkoff teams contributed directly to this effort, funding from the entire dairy checkoff network helps make these and other partnerships possible.

Domino’s and the international pizza chain are doing the heavy lifting through their advertising efforts and will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to drive awareness of their menu offerings. So the checkoff has not completely abandoned advertising – it is just being done through our partners as they work to keep dairy front and center in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Dairy-focused innovation

Here are some exciting specifics of what consumers will see:

Domino’s Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread – These oven-baked breadsticks are stuffed with cheese and pepperoni, covered in a blend of cheese made with 100% real mozzarella and cheddar, and seasoned with a touch of Parmesan and garlic. 

DMI supported Domino’s with consumer research, which helped make this stuffed cheesy bread launch a success. This option received high consumer test scores and joins the chain’s stuffed cheesy bread lineup, which debuted in 2011.

The checkoff also supported Domino’s on its enhanced loyalty program that continues to have growing appeal with customers and will drive pizza and cheese sales. The aim is to keep people in the category as we know if they are not purchasing a pizza, they likely will pursue less dairy-intensive options, such as chicken or Asian cuisine.

International focus – This pizza chain partner has exclusively sourced its cheese internationally, but the company is seeking to kick-start growth efforts and found a willing partner in the checkoff thanks to our longtime success in helping to grow U.S. pizza and cheese sales. In addition to checkoff support, members of the U.S. dairy supply chain are at the table, which assures U.S. cheese will be part of the company’s sourcing equation.

We are teaming up on an all-out marketing program that began in October and runs through March. We have long felt pizza remains an incredibly untapped opportunity in places such as China, where it is consumed maybe once a year on special occasions. Compare that to the U.S., which has a per-capita household rate of 34 pizzas a year. Also consider that the population in Asia is two to three times that of the U.S., so the possibilities for added cheese growth is staggering.

Year of successes

These announcements add excitement to an already successful year of checkoff partnership highlights.

Taco Bell announced the Grilled Cheese Burrito, for which the creation that was greatly influenced by the checkoff’s onsite food science team earned a permanent place on its menu after a very successful run as a limited-time option. The burrito uses 11 times the amount of cheese than the chain’s regular taco does, and its success led to Taco Bell offering grilled cheese dipping sauce as a side option.

McDonald’s continues to enhance its McFlurry lineup with new flavors and its promotion of the Grimace Shake generated large amounts of media coverage and social media interaction. These efforts all are made possible thanks to checkoff food science and marketing support.

Finally, Domino’s made a splash this year with another outside-the-pizza-box product: Loaded Tots. This is a very cheese-focused twist to an all-time favorite with Cheddar Bacon Loaded Tots, Philly Cheese Steak Loaded Tots and Melty 3-Cheese Tots available as appetizer options.

Each example shows we are bringing news to the dairy category. And if we are not generating news, somebody else will be.

Our partners understand how dairy enhances and brings value to their menu and is a reason why they are at the top of their respective categories. The partners also understand that working with the checkoff can help them be more successful and move faster toward their goals.

The checkoff’s restaurant strategy has stood the test of time, and it is built to maintain future successes.

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit the website or to reach us directly, send an email.

This article was written by Barbara O’Brien, who is president and CEO of Dairy Management Inc.