Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) CEO Tom Gallagher delivered a highlight of dairy checkoff priorities during the 2016 joint annual meeting of the United Dairy Industry Association, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, and National Milk Producers Federation in Nashville. Gallagher unveiled how DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff, will partner with Yum! Brands, the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, to bring more U.S. dairy into international markets.
He explained how this partnership is another example of the mutual benefit available to dairy farmers and importers through working “with and through” powerful foodservice partners to sell more dairy.
Gallagher said checkoff partners such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have helped move more than 5.5 billion pounds of additional milk over the last 52 weeks through domestic cheese sales, and he is optimistic that a similar approach can work internationally with Yum! Brands.
Through this partnership, DMI will work with KFC and Pizza Hut on pilot programs that will focus on increased cheese and butter use in the Asia Pacific, Latin American and Caribbean markets.
“Our strategy is to take what has worked so well, and resulted in those 5.5 billion pounds of additional milk sold, into international markets,” Gallagher said. “It would be expensive and difficult for a brand to go to China or other countries and create a brand identity.
Gallagher said another top mission of the checkoff is to grow consumer trust in dairy, and an industry-wide social responsibility plan set to kick off in 2017 through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy will be a monumental first step in the plan.
Zach Myers, a North Carolina dairy farmer and chairman of the National Dairy Board, said farmers have a critical role in this work.
“Consumers have overwhelming trust in farmers. We need to take that seriously and not do anything to betray that trust,” Myers said. “Nobody has the passion for what we do like we have, and nobody can tell our story like we can. It’s our ultimate responsibility, by whatever means we feel comfortable, to tell our story to consumers to maintain that trust.”
Gallagher touched on other checkoff successes that he said are making a difference for dairy farmers. Among them:
Sales of butter have been on a steady increase over the last two years, and Gallagher efforts from National Dairy Council-led research that is helping to make dairy fats more acceptable in the eyes of consumers, as well as McDonald’s shifting from margarine to butter in 2015, as the driving forces behind that growth.
Checkoff partnerships with seven fluid milk companies are beginning to turn around a decades-long decline in sales, and Gallagher said these partners saw growth of 175 million pounds of milk over the last two years. By comparison, the rest of the category saw a decline of 1.7 billion pounds over the same time period.