New program consumer focused
From almond "milk" to soy "ice cream," "yogurt" and even "Parmesan cheese," consumers are being bombarded by non-dairy products masquerading as the real deal.
"Imitation products made from vegetables and nuts, but packaged like real dairy products and often using dairy names, have proliferated in the last few years," says Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).
More on the REAL Seal
To stem that tsunami, NMPF has agreed to revitalize the REAL® Seal campaign. This past March, NMPF took over the management of the program from the United Dairy Industry Association.
The new effort will focus on consumers, mainly through social media such Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
"The program will now strive to educate new generations of dairy consumers about the significance of the REAL® Seal," Kozak says.
The new REAL® Seal program will reconnect with moms, introduce the program to men and women 21 to 44 years of age and to kids with an animated cartoon-character icon that is currently under development.
The REAL® Seal could become the U.S. dairy industry’s "country of origin label." Imported ingredients—casein, caseinates and milk protein concentrates—will not be allowed. Products must also conform to federal standards of identity. Products without a standard of identity will be approved on a case-by-case basis.
The REAL® Seal program was launched back in the 1970s, when imitation cheese started to infringe on natural cheese and pizza offerings.
Over the years, the program has been successful as a branding tool, with more than 90% consumer awareness. A like number finds the REAL® Seal helpful in making food-buying decisions. Consumers also say they are willing to pay up to 5% more for products carrying the REAL® Seal label.
The problem is that fewer young consumers are aware of what the REAL® Seal brings to the table. They often assume cow milk and vegetable or soy drinks masquerading as milk contain the same nutrients and offer the same value.
One page on the REAL® Seal website dispels that belief, showing that dairy milk contains nine
essential nutrients while soy and nut beverages contain just two to five essential nutrients, depending on the product. And, by the way, for the same 25¢, you can have an 8 oz. serving of milk compared to a 5 oz. serving of the other stuff.
The new REAL® Seal program will be self-sustaining, funded by user fees, says Jim Mulhern, NMPF chief operating officer who also now heads up the REAL® Seal program. Currently, there are no plans to use dairy checkoff funds.
About 350 pizza and dairy manufacturers already use the REAL® Seal on more than 10,000 products. NMPF hopes to increase that reach to more manufacturers and products, making the REAL® Seal widespread in food aisles.
NMPF hopes to expand the REAL® Seal program to frozen meals and food products made with real cheese, butter or other real dairy ingredients. In addition, restaurants that use approved dairy ingredients will also qualify to use the REAL® Seal logo. The plan is even to include exported dairy products and ingredients, which would carry American Made REAL® Seal logos.
Program officials are also planning to produce milk-tanker logos, making milk trucks look like rolling billboards promoting dairy products throughout the country.