Friday, January 10, 2020

Want to Keep Dairy Relevant in 2020? Mama Got This.

Happy New Year! It’s only 10 days into 2020 and wowza, what more can happen? The world is in chaos while the fluid milk industry is in a state of flux. Coke now owns fairlife and Elsie is hoping the banks keep her alive to celebrate her 84th birthday this year. Wishing the best for our friends in Australia.

Inspiration—and hope--often come from the least likely sources. Returning from an anti-war rally yesterday afternoon with my two sons (concerned 17- and 20-year old men), our lyft driver reassured them that, “mamas make things better.”

That got me thinking. Dairy cows are mamas. Their milk—and the dairy foods made from their milk—are comforting. Not much beats a cold glass of milk with hot chocolate chip cookies when you’re feeling a little down, other than a pint of your favorite ice cream. For us stressed out mamas, it might be a glass of wine and some aged cheddar. Dairy is quite comforting in its many formats.

Many of us are going to need comforting in 2020. Without a doubt, this year will be unlike any other in the past decade or two. Let’s make sure dairy foods are there to comfort and nourish…and, of course, enjoy.

It’s time to earn back consumers’ trust through transparency and storytelling, the non-fiction, fresh-from-the-farm type of narrative. Innova market analysts say that in 2020, you can win with words. It will be the year of storytelling.

“Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.”

It’s all about transparency to build trust. The majority of consumers--regardless of age or engagement with sustainability--want transparency from companies, reports The Hartman Group. Consumers often implicitly differentiate between products, brands and companies when they are assessing sustainability. Consumers often hesitate to award companies the halo of sustainability, even when they have favorable views of their products. Despite their doubt around corporate motivations, consumers are relatively clear about what a responsible company looks like. The Hartman Group’s research identifies seven factors that are important to consumers when they want to determine whether a company is responsible. (See infographic.)

They want to know what actions a company is taking to reduce its environmental impact, as well as how a company’s products are manufactured to assure quality and safety standards. Ingredients and how they are sourced matters. So is employee wellness and regulatory compliance. Nearly a third of consumers want to know how a company treats the animals used in its products. Tell mama’s story.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has forecast a number of broad trends for food and nutrition in 2020. Dairy friends, we got this! Just tell mama’s story.

For several years, the IFIC Foundation’s annual Food and Health Survey has asked whether sustainability was a factor in consumers’ food and beverage purchasing decisions. Between 2012 and 2018, that number ranged between 35% and 41% of consumers. However, when the 2019 Survey asked whether “environmental sustainability” was a factor in purchase choices, that number dropped to 27%, indicating that consumers’ notions of sustainability extend beyond just the environment. When it comes to environmental sustainability, consumers are eager to know and do more. According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 63% said it is hard to know whether the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable. Among that group, nearly two-thirds (63%) say environmental sustainability would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier to know. Tell mama’s story.

Consumers also consider factors such as the labeling of various product ingredients and attributes, along with production methods and food packaging, to be under the sustainability umbrella. IFIC says we can also expect concepts like soil health and regenerative agriculture—“giving back to the land” rather than just conserving resources—to gain traction in 2020. Tell mama’s story.

On an almost daily basis, we get new indications that our climate is becoming more precarious, from unprecedented wildfires around the world to the increasing incidence and severity of hurricanes, to the accelerating rate of polar ice loss. (Yes, my sons and I have marched for climate change. This mama’s got this!)

There’s no doubt that in 2020 consumers will become more concerned about the role the food system plays in climate change, such as the effects of agricultural production, food waste and transportation of goods. The dairy industry needs to make sure that consumers understand the critical role that ruminant animals—in particular mama cows—play in feeding the world.

Source: Global livestock feed dry matter intake [Adapted from FAO, 2017 (Adapted from Mottet et al., 2017)].

Thank you Greg Miller, global chief science officer at the National Dairy Council, and executive vice president, Dairy Management Inc., for sharing this article on why animal-sourced foods are necessary. In fact, many nutrition authorities believe they are the best source of high-quality nutrients for children 6- to 23-months old.

Link HERE to read “Animal source foods: Sustainability problem or malnutrition and sustainability solution? Perspective matters.”

Here’s an excerpt from my August 30, 2019, blog titled “Dairy Foods Rule: A Simple Explanation on Why Cows—their meat and milk—Are Paramount for Feeding the Future.”

As explained by Eric Bastian, vice president of industry relations for Dairy West, Twin Falls, Idaho:

  • Two-thirds of global agriculture land is not suitable for growing crops that humans can digest for energy and nutrition. But these lands are suitable for growing grasses and similar plants that ruminant animals consume. 
  • These plants are basically sources of cellulose. In fact, half of all organic carbon on earth is tied up in cellulose. Humans are not able to use this carbon for energy. Ruminants can, and they do so very efficiently. 
  • Ruminants, namely cows, goats and sheep, digest cellulose and convert it into foods that humans can eat. They make all of that organic carbon that cannot be digested by humans available to humans in the form of high-quality protein, essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid, and an array of other nutrients. Milk, for example, provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, B2, B3 and B12. 
  • Think about a stalk of corn, which provides two to three cobs. Humans can only digest the kernels, and for that matter, not even all of the kernel. The fibrous outer shells of corn kernels pass through the gastrointestinal system undigested due to lack of the necessary digestive enzyme. The rest of that corn plant is useless to humans for energy; however, it’s a meal for ruminant animals such as cows. Cows effectively convert the nutrients in that stalk, husk and cob to meat and milk for human consumption. 
This is why we need ruminant animals to feed the projected 9.7 billion humans who will inhabit earth in 2050.

Humans are omnivores. We are animals that have the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Animal nutrients are powerful. The bear, also an omnivore, gets it. When they are foraging the forest and dining on berries and leaves and see a salmon swimming nearby, they ditch the plants and go for the animal nutrition. Bears are smart. They understand the power of high-quality animal protein. That mama bear wants to feed her cubs the best food possible. After all, “mamas make things better.”

It’s time to share these talking points with consumers. Tell mama’s story.

According to IFIC’s forecast for 2020, environmental concerns will continue to drive greater adoption of plant-based diets. However, consumers’ conceptions of plant-based diets vary. About one-third (32%) of consumers say plant based is a vegan diet, while another 30% define it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs and dairy.

Another one in five (20%) believe it to be a vegetarian diet that avoids animal meat, while 8% say it is a diet in which you try to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible, with no limit on consuming animal meat, eggs and dairy. Let’s educate consumers about the importance of dairy…for nourishment, comfort and enjoyment. Tell them mama’s story.

In 2020, IFIC projects fad diets and get-thin-quick regimens will continue to lose popularity, supplanted by more holistic and sustainable concepts like intuitive eating, which rejects many of the tenets of fad diets like “good foods” and “bad foods.” The “un-diet” will focus less on food restrictions and more on natural cues our body gives us, like when we are full, and on healthier relationships with food overall.

Communicating dairy protein’s role in satiety is key here. The Strong Inside message is powerful. To learn more, link HERE.

Non-dairy white beverages, and non-dairy cheese, ice cream and yogurt are going to continue to share space with the “real” stuff in refrigerators and freezers. In 2020, IFIC projects we will see more of these products in other foods, for example, vegan pizza and probiotic smoothies. Further, consumers’ comfort level with food technology is expected to increase. Think lab-made milk. But wait, what about GMOs and artificial growth hormones. My, consumers are fickle! That’s where trust through transparency comes in, and, that’s right, mama got this!

According to IFIC, despite--or perhaps because of--growing acceptance of innovative and diverse food alternatives, familiarity will hold a greater pull for many Americans. Consumers in 2020, especially older ones, will base many of their purchase decisions on the brands and ingredients they know.

The 2019 Food and Health Survey showed that 70% of Americans’ trust in a brand had at least some impact on what foods and beverages they buy. But those factors are much more important to older consumers: Trust in a brand impacted the purchase decisions of 85% of consumers age 65 and above, but only 66% of younger consumers. At the same time, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers said recognizing the ingredients that go into a product had at least some impact on their purchasing decisions. Food labels will be more important than ever, as consumers increasingly seek information about ingredients they seek or try to avoid. Mama got this!


  1. Spot on! Thanks (again) Donna for what you are doing here, trumpeting the truth about the value of real dairy!

    -John Marin | Organic Valley

  2. Thank you John. I sincerely appreciate the feedback. from a mama!

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