by Tamara Scully
Dairy processors, both large and small, have ample opportunities to promote milk and milk products. Two programs – the national Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) and the Center for Dairy Excellence, in Pennsylvania, offer dairy processors promotional materials, branding campaigns and social media content aimed at increasing consumer consumption of fluid milk.
Melissa Malcolm, Director, National Sales and Field Marketing for MilkPEP, recently joined the Center for Dairy Excellence’s Executive Director Jayne Seabright in presenting a webinar designed to educate dairy processors and dairy farmers about these campaigns, and the opportunities to use them to help brand their milk, increase sales, and connect with consumers. A series of three webinars is available at the Center’s website centerfordairyexcellence.org.
One of the goals of MilkPEP program, which is funded by member dairy processors, is “making sure that the national campaign… is really trying to help our processors and our industry members build their brand locally,” and to make milk “essential to the consumer,” Malcolm said.
MilkPEP has embarked upon a multi-tiered approach, involving several strategic campaigns, recently unveiling a new three-year strategy designed to increase the consumption of fluid milk. This Milk Life campaign is joined by a separate promotion for chocolate milk, built with chocolate milk, as well as The Great American Milk Drive.
Used by both small and large dairies, MilkPEP promotional campaigns are designed to assist processors in promoting their brand of fluid milk. There may also be some limited opportunity for MilkPEP to work directly with dairy farmers, and interested farmers are invited to reach out to Malcolm to explore these possibilities.
The campaigns are meant to “drive demand, increase relevance and build trust,” bridging the gap between consumers and fluid milk processors. Taking advantage of MilkPEP content can assist individual dairy brands in establishing and maintaining consumer connections. MilkPEP offers free-of-charge social media content to members.
“Social media content is expensive,” Malcom said.
One highlight of the Milk Life campaign is a sponsorship with the Olympics, allowing MilkPEP members the right to utilize the Olympic rings symbol on milk packaging. MilkPEP is offering member processors numerous point-of-sale materials, as well as logos for packaging and social media materials in order to benefit from this sponsorship. This campaign will continue for five years, encompassing the 2018 Winter Olympics, as well as the Paralympic games. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be included as well.
Milk is relevant to the Olympics because there is “such a connection with athletes and nutrition,” Malcolm said. A recent MilkPEP survey showed that “nine out of 10 Olympic athletes grew up drinking milk.”
This connection between athletes, good nutrition and dairy farmers was launched with the 2016 summer Olympics, and many processors, including: Organic Valley; Kemps; Weis; and DairyPure, have taken advantage of the branding available through this promotion. Logos for packaging, as well as other promotional materials, are available to MilkPEP processor members, Malcolm said.
Another MilkLife program is designed to target kids, to make milk a healthy, desired part of their daily food intake. My Morning Protein promotion, also a part of the MilkLife campaign, addresses the need for protein before lunch, and the role milk can play in meeting protein requirements. A MilkPEP Partnership with the Food Network has been launched as well.
The built with chocolate campaign has partnered with USA Swimming to promote athletic post-workout recovery and the role chocolate milk can play is this. The popularity of USA Swimming during the Rio Olympics has been a big asset to this campaign.
The Great American Milk Drive is a year-round campaign, with special emphasis during June Dairy Month as well as September’s Hunger Action month. This campaign focuses on the lack of fluid milk available to local food banks, with many food bank customers consuming less than one gallon of milk per year.
“We really created this program, with Feeding America, in order to get more milk into national food banks,” Malcolm said. “It’s moving millions of gallons of milk to the food banks.”
Dairy processors are encouraged to work with the campaign, which has developed opportunities for food banks to directly purchase milk from their local processors, at a cost more than wholesale, but less than retail. By making milk an affordable purchase for the food banks, which primarily receive non-perishable food donations, their clients can reap the benefits of drinking milk, and processors can keep their milk lines running at capacity, Malcolm said.
Center for Dairy Excellence
The Center for Dairy Excellence, which promotes Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market Development and PA Preferred, in a grant-funded project. They are working to encourage dairy processors to become PA Preferred producers, and utilize the PA Preferred dairy resources, Executive Director Jayne Sebright, said.
Dairy processors are eligible for the PA Preferred Dairy designation if 94 percent of their milk comes from Pennsylvania, and if it is processed in Pennsylvania. Under the dairy regulations, a signed agreement with the Department of Agriculture is included, due to the complexities of co-mingled milk, she said.
The PA Preferred program is a branding program promoting Pennsylvania-grown and produced food, connecting local customers back to the farm. With a dairy industry that is fifth in the nation in milk production, and second in the number of dairy cows, Pennsylvania consumers have no reason not to be drinking Pennsylvania -produced milk. Based on a 2012 Center for Dairy Excellence labeling study, “consumers do want to buy local and want to know where their milk comes from,” Sebright said.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s dairy industry is not using labels as an effective marketing tool. Consumers are 10 percent more likely to purchase dairy products labeled PA Preferred, and 18 percent more likely to do so if the label indicates it is from a local dairy.
The PA Preferred program has grants available to dairy producers new to the program. These $2,500 grants can help producers make the most of their labels, point of sale materials, and other marketing materials. Producers in the program for their second year can also apply for a $1,000 grant to help them continue their PA Preferred branding program.
“The PA Preferred program really gives the opportunity to elevate your brand,” Sebright said. Opportunities to connect with schools to promote fluid milk and dairy products also exist.
Both the PA Preferred and the MilkPEP program hope to reinvigorate milk sales. The aim is to help dairy farmers to compete with the trendy alternative beverage market, which includes “milk” from nuts, which are growing in popularity with consumers, and to show consumers the health benefits of drinking milk. Connecting dairy processors and farmers directly to local consumers is an effective way of spreading the message.