Dairy Management Inc. leaders recently reflected on adjusting business plans due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also expressed hope for the future. 

Dairy Management responded to the pandemic, found ways to move more dairy to people in need, and executed the 2020 strategy on a compressed timeline, said Barbara O’Brien, president of Dairy Management Inc. She summarized five “impact” results achieved by the checkoff.

  1. GENYOUth, an organization founded by the checkoff, created the COVID-19 Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund, which generated about $10 million in cash and in-kind support to 9,000 schools to provide food for students in need.
  2. Pizza has been a “superstar” throughout the pandemic. Frozen pizza has experienced double-digit retail growth. Checkoff partners Pizza Hut and Domino’s have averaged 10-percent sales growth in the past two quarters. Dairy Management’s efforts with Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Leprino Foods and Dairy Farmers of America moved tens of millions of extra pounds of cheese from May through August.
  3. A new promotion in 21,000 Subway stores will generate funds for GENYOUth’s emergency school fund while building awareness for America’s dairy farmers, dairy products and Fuel Up to Play 60, at no cost to farmers.
  4. A multimedia campaign on National Farmers Day earned more than 900 million impressions across media and digital channels for U.S. dairy’s 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals, the Net Zero Initiative and the commitment by Nestlé to support the U.S. dairy industry with as much as $10 million through five years.
  5. Checkoff teams continued to share the story of dairy’s essential role in communities and farmers’ ability to assure a safe, consistent supply of dairy. Paid media integrations and digital content garnered more than 1.6 billion media impressions and increased trust in farmers and the belief in farmers’ essential role.

Engaging with Gen Z

Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management, focused on the recent checkoff initiative aimed at reaching Gen Z consumers – individuals in their early teens to 20s. More than 90 percent of Gen Z plays video games so Dairy Management established partnerships with four influential Minecraft gamers. Those gamers have a collective reach of about 120 million social-media followers. Each gamer did a virtual tour of a dairy that resulted in dairy-focused Minecraft content highlighting farmers’ focus on animal care and the environment.

The strategy is critical to reach a generation of consumers who no longer use traditional media to hear an industry’s or company’s message.

“If we wanted to run an advertisement for people like me or most dairy farmers, we might run something on traditional television," Gallagher said. "But this age group doesn’t watch commercials so you need to go where your key consumer is; gaming is where they are.”

The first video, created by gamer Preston Playz, was released Oct. 27. Within the first 48 hours it received more than 900,000 views and 40,000 “likes.”

“In terms of cost effectiveness and messaging this will be the most effective communications program we've had since the start of the checkoff,” Gallagher said.

There also was a panel conversation held during the virtual 2020 joint annual meeting of the United Dairy Industry Association, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and the National Milk Producers Federation. The panel was comprised of leaders in the areas of promotion, cooperative, processing and farming. They shared perspectives on the importance of U.S. dairy’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Acknowledging external pressures the panelists focused their discussion on collaboration and the different, unique roles the dairy community will play on the path to carbon neutrality.

“U.S. dairy farmers are diverse in size, geography and practice,” said Krysta Harden, executive vice president of global environmental strategy for Dairy Management. “There's no one-size-fits-all solution. This is about everyone doing something – not everything – to help us collectively achieve carbon neutrality.”

Emily Johannes, category manager of ethical sourcing for Nestlé, discussed why engaging with the U.S. dairy community and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is the right decision for her company. “We chose to invest in the initiative because that’s our commitment to dairy farmers and supply-chain partners – to help take action together.”

Dairy Management’s Gallagher concluded his remarks, commenting on the “Dairy 2030” initiative. The effort brings together the best thinking within the dairy community, futurists, academia and business to ensure preparedness and a strong future for dairy, he said.

“I want to emphasize two points – the majority of our time and effort is on today and doing the best job we can with our mission of building sales and trust. But as everyone knows you must think about the future. Let’s not be a little bit behind … let’s be way ahead.”

Visit usdairy.com for more information.

Scott Wallin is vice-president of industry media relations and issues management at Dairy Management Inc.