EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a response to a blog post titled: “What could dairy industry learn from the Almond Board?”  written by Western Farm Press Associate Editor Todd Fitchette.

The response is from Paul Rovey, a Glendale, Ariz. dairyman who serves as the chairman of Dairy Management Inc., a check-off funded organization that works to help increase sales and demand for dairy products.

Paul Rovey's comments follow:

You raise some important issues in your recent blog “What could dairy industry learn from the Almond Board?”

Like almonds, the dairy industry is a growing, thriving sector. U.S. milk production has increased 14 percent over the last eight years, because we continue to find customers for our products.

This doesn’t happen automatically. It’s the result of the growing sophistication of U.S. dairy suppliers to serve the needs of our domestic and export markets. We are less commodity-oriented than ever. Increasingly, we’re making the right product, in the right package, with the right specifications, at the right price. Sales efforts have been ably supported by the national dairy check off.

Two cases in point:

About 10 billion pounds of additional milk have moved through the pizza category since the check off began partnering with Domino’s five years ago. Successes include the Domino’s Smart Slice line of school lunch pizza, now available in more than 450 districts in 39 states.

In addition, through a partnership with the dairy check off, McDonald’s used more than 1.7 billion pounds of additional milk through dairy-friendly items from 2009-2011. The goal is to move an additional three billion pounds between 2012-2014.

The dairy check off helps maintain sales increases by protecting and promoting the image of dairy producers, dairy products, and the dairy industry, and helps reconnect consumers with dairy farming and agriculture overall.

This protects dairy’s freedom to operate in schools, foodservice and other channels, and reinforces the check off as the dairy farmer’s voice in the marketplace.

Success also comes from two decades of dairy producer, processor, and trader partnership in the check off-funded U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), an effort that conducts programs to build demand for U.S. dairy around the world and works with U.S. suppliers to help capitalize on the growing global opportunity.

USDEC’s demand-building programs over the years includes retail and restaurant promotions to introduce consumers to U.S. cheese and milk, technical seminars that help food formulators recognize the benefits of U.S. dairy ingredients and trade missions that bring buyers and sellers together. These promotion programs have been supplemented with nutrition research and product development work to create a demand pull for dairy around the globe.

All of this is to say that the “work and focus” on building demand that you call for is already happening – in fact, it has been happening for years. It’s an evolution, of course, and there’s always more work to be done. But the success we enjoy year after year tells me we’re moving in the right direction.

Paul Rovey
Dairyman, Glendale, Ariz.
Chairman, Dairy Management Inc.