Revamping fluid milk, increasing exports and bringing restaurant leaders into the dairy discussion were topics for the 2013 joint meeting of three dairy industry organizations – the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, the National Milk Producers Federation and the United Dairy Industry Association.
More than 1,000 dairy producers and industry representatives attended the meeting, held Nov. 11-13 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Working in partnership with major dairy and foodservice companies and consumer brands to grow sales was a key message of the event, which included a panel discussion with representatives from McDonald's USA and The Quaker Oats Company.
Additionally, Taco Bell President Brian Niccol and Chief Food Innovation Officer Liz Matthews presented the chain's plans to help grow sales through dairy product innovation and new menu items.
"Working with companies who have a shared commitment and goal to increase sales is the right thing to do," explained outgoing NDB Chairman Steve Maddox. "It allows us to leverage resources and expertise, and create a win-win for us and those we work with."
Fluid milk boosters
Neil Hoff, UDIA Chairman, focused on the future of fluid milk sales, explaining that checkoff dollars provide for meetings with fluid milk processors, dairy cooperatives, retailers and suppliers to identify options to stabilize fluid milk prices.
"To date, the checkoff has invested $9 million to turn around sales and bring consumers back to the category," Hoff explained. He expects investments in the next five years to continue building the category will total hundreds of millions of dollars.
Representatives from Dairy Farmers of America and Shamrock Foods Company joined Hoff in sharing how the industry is working to develop manufacturing, packaging and marketing innovations to keep fluid milk strong.
Exports stay strong
Exports represent a bright spot for the dairy industry, said Paul Rovey, Chairman of Dairy Management, Inc.
"I remember when we had to beg other countries to take our excess dairy products," Rovey said. "Today, one out of every seven tanker loads of milk is exported."
For 2013, exports are on track to total $6.5 billion in sales – a 25% increase from 2012, and the fourth consecutive record year for U.S. dairy exports.
Rovey said building ongoing relationships and supporting the U.S. Dairy Export Council is critical for long-term export sales, and the U.S. must keep its eye on the prize to continue growing exports.
"We must continue to change, innovate and grow. We must stay focused on our domestic market, yet also remain attentive to growing exports. Both markets are important to secure our future," he said.
Source: Dairy Management Inc.