On this month’s edition of “Conversations with Dairy Checkoff,” we’re joined by Janice Jackson, director of marketing for United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
Q: UDIM works to be a credible source of dairy nutrition information for consumers throughout the state. What are some of the outreach programs underway to connect with current consumers and future milk drinkers?
A: Thanks for having me. The marketing team works really hard to put dairy promotion dollars to work, not least of which is through in-person events. Events have always been and continue to be an important part of the overall strategy of reaching our consumers.
And we love having a presence at places where dairy is not expected, for instance, at an e-sports competition, after a baseball game, or even at watering holes around college campuses, and we think that summer is really the prime time to reach families. This summer, we’re really heavily involved with minor league baseball on the west side of the state, as well as semi-pro soccer clubs throughout Michigan.
And the Mac and Cheese Fest in Kalamazoo is an absolute can’t miss. It takes place this month and is not only focused on everyone’s favorite cheesy dish, mac and cheese, it also brings in local vendors who showcase the unique dairy creations off of their menus. It’s one of our most popular events for simply appreciating and enjoying dairy foods.
Then in August, we’re going to be at the PBS Kids Day at the zoo. This is 5,000 strong of Grand Rapids moms, young kids at the John Ball Zoo, and it’s always a great time. So I will say out of all of these events, dairy farmers have joined us at many of them and have been able to interact with families and see for themselves how UDIM promotes dairy.
Q: Can you share some examples of how these events have affected or reached participants?
A: What it comes down to is that events build on consumer trust for dairy, and we’re able to be that friendly face and serve as their personal connection to milk brands. Ultimately, this gets folks thinking about adding more milk to the cart during their next grocery stop because more and more consumers have told us they feel like they can’t enjoy dairy because of lactose intolerance. So we provide them that education and we give them solutions to choose from in the dairy case, and hopefully that’s converting them to dairy lovers.
One other example of positive feedback that I have personally received is when we supply chocolate milk at the finish line of all the big races each spring and fall. I’ve heard from so many athletes that chocolate milk at the end of the race is the cherry on top and they are just so appreciative of the support from the farmers.
Q: Well, you know milk has a long history of being one of the greatest sporting event celebrations of all time. So at the end of a race, it sounds pretty good. Janice, can you share how UDIM chooses events to participate or partner in?
A: First off, we want your promotion dollars in the areas of the state where the people are, and that means the highly populated areas like Metro Detroit and Grand Rapids. And so within this, we further target our outreach to millennial-age parents and Gen Z groups because these consumers are inherently skeptical. They not only want, but they demand transparency and honesty from the brands they purchase. By educating them and making those real in-person connections with both milk producers and the marketing staff who represent them, it’s an opportunity to gain their trust and generate incremental sales.
Q: How can farmers learn more about these consumer-facing efforts and help promote dairy at consumer events?
A: We want you to see and experience, so come and join us. Call the UDIM office for more information and to participate in future consumer events. The number is 517-349-8923.
For more information, visit milkmeansmore.org.