Through the national checkoff program, dairy producers are helping grow the dairy industry by demonstrating leadership, innovation and results, according to producer leaders who spoke to more than 1,000 dairy producers and other industry representatives at the 2008 National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB)/United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA)/National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Joint Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
"The dairy checkoff is helping the dairy industry grow, not just for today, but for the future, by helping meet unmet demand – giving consumers what they want, when and where they want it,” said Paul Rovey, Arizona dairy producer and chair of Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program through funding by NDB and UDIA.
Opportunities in Foodservice and Schools
Collaborating with national restaurant chains and manufacturers provides opportunities to include dairy products on menus – such as string cheese and milk in plastic bottles – and within existing products – including coffee drinks, smoothies and protein bars, Rovey stated. These partnerships help the industry act as a leader in nutrition, and help capitalize on opportunities to include dairy products and ingredients in current and future products, he said.
The dairy checkoff is also leading industry innovation to protect dairy's place in schools, Rovey said. In order to address the changes in school milk requirements, the checkoff:
· determined interest in flavored milk in schools
· conducted taste tests among students
· developed new products that meet the preference of students, while still meeting nutrition requirements
"Because of our proactive thinking, we developed and tested more than 100 flavored milk products in a lower-calorie range that children liked. These are available to U.S. dairy processors, and the majority offered these products to schools this fall,” Rovey said.
Forming Lifelong Consumers
Today's children are important to dairy producers, now and as they grow into lifelong dairy consumers. Creating the next generation of dairy consumers starts by educating them about the important role dairy products play in their diet, said Bill Siebenborn, Missouri dairy producer and UDIA chair.
"Dairy must remain available to children in schools – for the good of our children's health, and for the good of our own future,” Siebenborn said.
Siebenborn highlighted dairy producers' long-standing commitment to children's health and nutrition, adding, "Today, we've taken it up a notch.”
With the announcement of the Child Nutrition and Fitness Initiative (CNFI), the dairy checkoff has started an unprecedented effort to improve the lives of our children and teens through a comprehensive, youth-driven initiative that encourages and rewards improved nutrition – including dairy – and physical fitness. CNFI ultimately will give students greater access to dairy products and other nutritious foods, and will encourage one hour of physical activity each day.
Dairy producers are teaming up with the National Football League (NFL) as a key fitness partner in the initiative. "The NFL is a great partner because they bring exciting, compelling star power to our effort,” he said.
The NFL partnership also extends to local dairy promotion efforts. "Their leadership, their local teams and their players are as interested in children's health as we are,” Siebenborn said. He noted that national and local dairy checkoff organizations have working relationships with 30 NFL teams, creating opportunities for player visits and other CNFI program components at local schools.
"As our next generation improves their nutrition by drinking and eating more dairy, it is good for them and it's good for all of us as dairy producers,” said Siebenborn.
Protecting Dairy's Future
In addition to helping protect milk's position in our nation's schools and forming lifelong consumers, dairy producers also are helping to position the U.S. dairy industry for future growth through their checkoff investment, according to Les Hardesty, Colorado dairy producer and immediate past chair of NDB.
"Our industry survives and thrives because we embrace new challenges and are motivated by opportunities,” Hardesty said. "It's an enthusiasm for the industry, a passion for collaboration and a dedication to dairy promotion. All of these are driven by our dairy checkoff program.”
Sustainability is one key example. Dairy producers, through the checkoff, have established an industry-wide sustainability initiative that will encourage innovation and support real-life practices (throughout the entire dairy marketing chain) that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible for now and for future generations.
"Part of the sustainability initiative will educate the public and key thought leaders that being sustainable has been, is, and will continue to be, part of our dairy farming practices.” Hardesty said. "This initiative will provide solid, undisputable examples that will help all of us demonstrate how the U.S. dairy industry is sustainable and valuable to the country and the world.”