From Michigan dairy farmers' unwavering support for schools, food pantries and food banks to United Dairy Industry of Michigan's switch to virtual programming to reach audiences where they live, the checkoff cultivated a productive year despite 2020's uncertainty.
"The past year brought a unique set of challenges," says Corby Werth, Alpena, Mich., dairy farmer and UDIM president. "I'm proud to say our dairy community met them head-on, providing many wins we can leverage for the future and giving all of us reasons for optimism as we look ahead.
"Total U.S. dairy sales grew last year thanks to checkoff efforts supporting strong exports and retail sales, despite the challenges we faced, especially early in the year. We remain optimistic about future exports and hopeful for a rebound in food-service dairy sales in 2021."
Dairy farmers and industry leaders met virtually March 5 to share highlights from 2020 dairy promotion activities on the state, local and national levels. This meeting marked the Dairy Council of Michigan's 92nd annual meeting and the American Dairy Association of Michigan's 78th annual meeting.
"Our team has gone a long way to build and strengthen relationships and demonstrate how much Michigan dairy farmers care for their communities," says Sharon Toth, UDIM CEO. "Not only were we able to share the nutritional goodness of dairy with people throughout the state, we also shined a light on the goodness of the farm families who work to bring dairy foods to everyone's table in good times and bad."
Here are three ways dairy promotion efforts helped support farmers and strengthen consumer trust:
1. Fueling minds and bodies. Throughout the year, Michigan food-service professionals were on the front lines, going to extraordinary lengths and revamping logistics to ensure kids had access to meals during the shift to remote education. And UDIM supported these efforts every step of the way.
"I can't thank UDIM and Michigan dairy farmers enough for the incredible support and collaboration they offered as we pivoted in our roles," says Carolyn Thomas, child nutrition consultant for Macomb Intermediate School District. Thomas serves 31 school districts in two counties.
"We've truly been able to expand the breadth and depth of nutrition education to influence lifelong eating habits," she adds. "UDIM has been a great partner in these efforts, providing tools like thermal coolers, tents for meal distribution, hot chocolate machines, educational materials, virtual dairy tours and so much more — plus their staff's volunteer efforts have gone above and beyond."
2. Working toward a sustainable future. Study after study shows consumers expect brands to practice sustainability, and they use purchasing power based on those beliefs. Focusing on dairy as an environmental solution is the evolution of the industry’s long-standing commitment to sustainability and the cornerstone of its future.
Karen Scanlon, senior vice president of environmental stewardship for Dairy Management Inc. and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, shared details on how the U.S. dairy industry can meet the collective goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
“Farmers care for the environment because it's the right thing to do," Scanlon says. "We want to make it easier for farmers to voluntarily adopt sustainable practices and technologies by making them more affordable and accessible. Leadership in this space is an advantage for the U.S. dairy industry, which needs to be clearly recognized to compete in domestic and global markets.
“Through the Net Zero Initiative, we will demonstrate what U.S. dairy farmers have been and are doing to be an environmental solution."
3. 'You're Gonna Need Milk For That' campaign. Fluid milk promotion efforts saw strong performances over the past 12 months — from the successful revamp of the ‘Got milk?’ promotion for a new generation that yielded more than 4 billion impressions, to the innovative "Build A Better Breakfast" partnership with General Mills.
"Milk has every right to be bold," says Yin Rani, Milk Processor Education Program CEO. "Milk helps you do remarkable things, and respect for milk is strong. Our goal is to prompt consumers to reconsider milk as a beverage of choice — particularly for kids and athletes who want to perform at their best.”
Look for a new campaign this summer: "You're Gonna Need Milk For That." The aspirational campaign will feature a cutting-edge approach with both athletes and non-athletes to underscore the power of milk and help accomplish remarkable feats.
To learn more about UDIM's efforts to build sales and grow trust in dairy foods, visit milkmeansmore.org or call 517-349-8923.