Dairy group announces partnerships to pump up fluid milk consumption

By Ann Tracy Mueller

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



CHICAGO, Oct. 29, 2014 - Over the past four decades, consumption of fluid dairy products has dropped with each generation. Today, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) announced seven partnerships investing more than a half billion dollars in an effort to put fluid milk back in the center of the rapidly growing health and wellness beverage market.

One of every two individuals today drinks no fluid milk at all.

Most Americans born in the 1990s drink milk less often than individuals born in the 1970s - and the ‘70s-born drink milk less often than Baby Boomers born during the 1950s, says a report published by the USDA's Economic Research Service in May 2013. In fact, the report cites research showing a “slow continuous shift downward” in milk consumption since the 1940s.

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Why?

The report blames the change in habits on several things.

For one, every generation seemed to grow up drinking less milk than its parents and kept the same consumption habit as adults. In addition, we're on the move now - eating at home less. And, just look at the variety of beverages on the market today - soft drinks, sports drinks, bottled waters and more - taking a chunk out of the dairy market share and quenching a nation's thirst.

DMI, which represents America's dairy farm families and importers, says the seven partners “are committing an unprecedented investment to unlock innovation and put milk back in the center of the rapidly growing health and wellness beverage market.”

The dairy group interviewed more than 50 organizations to determine which were willing to make the investment to help build back up the consumption of fluid dairy products.

The seven wide-ranging partners committing to the effort include Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Darigold/Northwest Dairy Association, The Kroger Company, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Inc., Shamrock Farms, Southeast Milk, Inc and The Coca-Cola Company.

Through the partnership with DMI, all are working aggressively to pursue growth opportunities for fluid milk through investments in infrastructure, capital, human resources and marketing.

“These dairy partners are making an unprecedented investment over the next few years - more than half a billion dollars in capital and other resources,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of DMI. “With our check-off resources and dedication to fluid milk innovation, we're excited to see how unique partnerships will help us drive ingenuity and generate new offerings and sales in the fluid milk category.”
 

Gallagher and Paul Rovey, Arizona dairy farmer, chairman of DMI and chairman of United Dairymen of Arizona, a regional dairy cooperative, told reporters on a conference call today that dairy farmers are excited about these innovations.

“As a farmer, I am proud to see to see farmer-led organizations and other leaders committed to revitalizing fluid milk,” Rovey said.

DMI and the dairy farmers know the effort will take time. The dairy spokesmen say the industry didn't lose the fluid sales in a day and won't get them back in a day. With innovation and commitment, though, the industry and partners hope to see results.

It's early in the process and many of the innovations are still proprietary, but some of the changes on the horizon will be shelf-stable products, smaller bottles and more. One new product the dairy groups hope will help increase consumption is from Fairlife, whose milk products include some with more protein, lactose-free, and in smaller packaging.

Another benefit the dairy farmers hope to see as innovative liquid dairy items are introduced is a more widespread sharing of the message of the way farmers treat their cows.

Among the dairy group's hopes is to have something for every life stage through these innovations, “bringing people back to dairy.”

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