The oldest millennials will celebrate their 40th birthdays this year. This generation, at 72.1 million, surpassed baby boomers as the largest living adult generation in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. And like boomers, they have educations and disposable incomes, and concerns about nutritious eating and environmental sustainability.
This audience is seeking that information, and Midwest Dairy is sharing it during June, National Dairy Month. Molly Pelzer is the CEO of Midwest Dairy, the dairy promotion organization that works on behalf of dairy farm families across 10 Midwest states, from Oklahoma to the Dakotas.
“National Dairy Month is a great opportunity for us to share with millennials and Generation Z about dairy’s sustainable nutrition story, and to remind them that there are dairy farmers out there every day sharing their passion for feeding people and delivering great nutrition,” Pelzer says. She adds that focusing efforts on these generations makes sense, not only due to their buying power for food, but also their influencing capabilities online.
Millennial women in the U.S. have upward of $170 billion of buying power a year, according to Business Wire. Many are establishing their careers, raising young children, and they may also be caring for older family members. Still, a brand’s values and stance on issues is important to 57% of millennial women. So, it’s not just about putting a meal on the table, but also making sure that every bite and sip conforms to their values.
We saw this on display during the 2020 pandemic, when more Americans discovered a new connection to their food than ever before.
“We did see consumers purchasing more dairy at retail for their use at home,” Pelzer says. Cereal and milk sales grew, a taste of normalcy and comfort in a turbulent time. Home baking was rediscovered as a hobby, which was excellent for cheese and butter sales, she adds. And snacking was a big boost for dairy foods as families worked and schooled from home. But through it all, nutrition was on the minds of consumers as they were trying to keep themselves and their families healthy.
“We have new research that shows that dairy is part of a diet that will help maintain a healthy immune system,” Pelzer says. Sharing that with millennials who are buying snacks for their families is very important.
Go where they are
Dairy farmers themselves are still the trusted source of information for consumers, Pelzer says.
Some dairy farmers have found success sharing their stories on social media in the past few years. And that’s drawn millennial and Generation Z attention.
But as new and varied social media platforms rise in popularity, from Instagram to TikTok and beyond, farmers need partners to help keep up with putting their messages in front of audiences. That’s why Midwest Dairy is partnering with established influencers on these channels.
“When it comes to channels like TikTok and Instagram, what we’ve found works is tapping into other third parties who can promote and speak on behalf of the power of dairy,” Pelzer says. This strategy uses the influencer power of credentialed third-party thought leaders like pediatricians and obstetricians. They already have developed reputations among millennials online as trusted information sources, and can help share the message of dairy’s nutritional value.
Millennials are also concerned with the values of the products they buy, and they rely on cultural thought leaders to shape their ideals.
“They might be athletes, they might be chefs, they might be gamers,” Pelzer says. “We’re looking at different opportunities to have multiple people amplifying the message that Midwest Dairy certainly tries to be a champion for, but using those with influence who can reach the Gen Z and millennials.”
Another critical component of Midwest Dairy’s promotional effort to reach millennials and Gen Z is partnering with museums in its 10-state area to share science-based information about dairy production.
“Parents and their children visiting museums have that mindset of curiosity and wanting to learn new things,” Pelzer says. “So that’s a natural opportunity for us to use our credible, science-based information to help people explore how dairy is good for the body and made with care for the planet. We’ve recently made a commitment for net-zero goals by 2050, and we can tell that dairy sustainability story in those museums.”
The net zero goals are in regard to sustainability. Specifically, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy board of directors set new environmental goals to achieve carbon neutrality or better, optimize water usage and improve water quality by 2050.
By educating families about how dairy can be a carbon-neutral process, and sharing how dairy farms of all sizes are committing to clean air and water, Midwest Dairy is showing that dairy meets millennials’ values.
“I think now is the time to be louder and prouder about that story,” Pelzer says. “To talk about what we used to call ‘stewardship,’ which is now called ‘environmental sustainability.’ To talk about the road map in front of us to work not only at the farm, but from the processors to manufacturers, all the way to the table to help showcase how dairy can be actually a solution for taking care of our environments.”